I Wear Your Ring

Monday and back to the office with me this morning. Woo-hoo! The excitement never stops, does it? I slept pretty well last night–well enough to not want to get up this morning–and so feel a bit groggy this morning. I’m not certain how busy we’ll be at work today, but I am hoping it will be an easy day. Yesterday wasn’t a bad dat; I managed to make progress on the book, got some things done around the house, and we watched the new Arnold Schwarzenegger Netflix show FUBAR, which was entertaining enough. In some ways, the show almost feels like a sequel to True Lies, in which he played a spy whose wife had no idea what he actually did for a living. This show takes that premise to its next logical conclusion, should the wife never find out she’s married to a spy. It had some funny moments, has a really good cast, and high production values. This week the Vanderpump Rules final reunion episode airs, but some of my shows–Ted Lasso, sob–are completed. Not sure what we will be watching next–I imagine I’ll be watching the Randall scandal documentary (more Vanderpump Rules drama) at some point, but not terribly sure that’s something Paul will want to watch.

I didn’t read a lot this weekend; the little writing I was able to do, along with other miniscule irritations over the course of the weekend, managed to tire out my brain to the point where being able to focus on reading wasn’t likely. Progress is progress, after all, and maybe I’m a bit behind my usual schedule, or the one I was trying to keep with it, but it will get completed on time, methinks.

I have my dates and everything all screwed up again; I keep thinking it’s later in June than it actually is. Part of that has to do with the usual “working on a book so not paying attention to dates” thing I inevitably get caught up in, and I imagine the rest has to do with the year being very off-balance for me thus far. I handed over MWA in the middle of January, whilst in the midst of revising two of my own books while editing another, and then Mom died and then it was the festivals and then Malice and now suddenly it’s June, which doesn’t seem real–and I am going back up north the last week of this month. I’d wanted to take a week off this summer just to work on things around the house–purging the attic, for one, and doing a deep, thorough cleaning for another–but looks like that time is going to be burnt being there for my dad. There are, of course, worse things to burn off your vacation time with; and it’s nice feeling closer to my father. I just hate the reason behind it, you know?

At least the Internet is continuing to work for me at home. (Probably just jinxed that.)

It apparently rained overnight; part of the reason I slept so well, probably, and so today is one of those weird mornings where it feels cool because the humidity hasn’t fully recharged yet from the rain.

I’m also trying to decide what my next Pride month entry should be. I’ve got a couple already going–one about being confronted by homophobia within the mystery publishing community–but I find myself hesitant to post it because of not wanting to be “that gay”, which is stupid. If I don’t call out homophobia where and when I see it, I am contributing to the problem. I guess I should be a little less concerned with hurting people’s feelings, or something? I don’t know. But I am heading into the spice mines this morning, and will check in with you later. Maybe there will be a “homophobia in crime fiction” entry posted later, you never know…but one thing for sure, I will be back tomorrow morning.

Fotzepolitic

Sunday morning and things went about as well as could be expected yesterday. Friday evening I had some items delivered from Sam’s Club, but hadn’t noticed that one of the items ordered actually had to be shipped; it arrived this morning here at the Lost Apartment. And while I was waiting for my Cox cable technician to arrive (I rearranged the entire morning to accommodate their 10-12 am window), I got a text message at 11:30 informing me that my appointment was cancelled; then came the email stating we know things happen! Reach out and reschedule! I reached out, only to be told that the technician arrived, called, got voicemail, and departed DESPITE MY HAVING GIVEN THE SAME INSTRUCTIONS I ALWAYS GIVE: OUR BUZZER DOESN’T WORK SO YOU HAVE TO CALL OR TEXT WHEN YOU ARRIVE.

Also, I had my phone with me all morning, so I wouldn’t miss the call. No one called, I have no recents, and I have no voicemails.

This obviously threw me off my game yesterday for writing, but I did get some done. I am a bit behind on the schedule I’d given myself, but I think it’s going to go relatively easily from now on. I ran some errands, came home, got cleaned up, and dove into the writing. I wasn’t really able to shake off the mood, so after struggling for a few hours to get the chapter done, I called it a day and repaired to my easy chair. Needing to cleanse my soul, I did a rewatch binge of the first episodes of Ted Lasso, which are even more charming on rewatch because you get to see all the callbacks you might have forgotten about later in the run of the show, like Keeley acknowledging that she “dated a 23 year old footballer when she was seventeen, only now I’m thirty and I’m still dating 23 year old footballers” while talking to Rebecca. You can almost see the light come on in her eyes–what the hell am I doing–which kind of opens the door for her breaking up with Jamie later. Even though they don’t know each other well, she recognizes that it’s time for her to grow-up and start thinking about her own future, while talking to Rebecca–which is the first building block in their close friendship. Then later, when Paul was finished working for the day we watched Bama Rush, which was kind of disappointing. Originally focusing on four girls about to go through sorority rush at the University of Alabama–which I guess is this viral thing on TikTok–it got a bit derailed with the director started seeing similarities in behavior of the girls planning to go through rush as she went through being a lifelong alopecia sufferer…which could have been made a lot more interesting, but I always thought the point of a documentary was the director didn’t make themselves a part of the story? I think the point she was trying to make was valid, but the way the documentary was a edited together simply didn’t work. The focus shifted, and it derailed after that.

But Jesus God in heaven, those sorority houses in Tuscaloosa! The fraternity houses! They’re enormous. I had kind of figured Greek life at universities would be declining, given how old-fashioned and restrictive they can be, especially sororities–and this newer younger generation doesn’t seem as interested as preserving traditions and institutions as previous ones were, but Bama Rush showed me things I didn’t know…that “Rush Consultant” is actually a career, for one thing…and the documentary only briefly touched on the Machine, a supposedly secret society made up of representatives from every fraternity and sorority that controls everything at the University. (I kind of love that shit; I’ve long been an admirer of Pat Conroy’s The Lords of Discipline, which kind of touched on that kind of thing.)

Today I am going to get shit done. Later this morning I am going to make a very brief and short grocery run to the Rouse’s in the CBD, and then I am coming home to spend the rest of the day writing and reading. I didn’t read yesterday, which was a bit disappointing; I’d hoped to finish reading my current book this weekend so I could move along to Megan Abbott’s new one; but anticipation is always lovely, and perhaps I can get along to that next week. One can always hope, can’t one?

But I feel rested and awake this morning. My back and legs are a bit tight and sore, so I think I’m to use that massage roller thing for my back and maybe do some stretching (which I should do every day) to see how it feels. I am planning on getting a chapter finished, maybe doing some reading, and then making my grocery run so I can come back and do more writing. I need to write most of the day, to make up for the last couple of days of irritation and aggravation that kept me out of the proper mindset.

My mind has been all over the place this week, which is weird, but also kind of normal for me. Whenever I am in the weeds with a book my mind goes off in all kinds of directions and produces all manner of thoughts and ideas. I started writing several other entries yesterday, specifically for Pride Month and specifically about being gay–sometimes about being a gay author and what that’s like; I always forget that people never really quite grasp or understand what it’s like to be a queer writer in an intolerant country, of what it feels like to be othered by every community in which you try to find a place where you belong. I’ve never wanted to be THAT gay; the one constantly having to remind people of what is and isn’t homophobia, and is always having to point it out and teach straight people about what it’s like. It’s exhausting, frankly, and sometimes the well-meaning ignorance is highly offensive, but you know they don’t mean it that way so you push down the offense and ignore it while calmly trying to explain to the person why they can’t say or do that…while also not trying to hurt their feelings (although had they put even the tiniest bit of thought into it, would have never said anything offensive in the first place). It’s exhausting having to see trash equate your sexuality with pedophilia and grooming on a daily basis. It’s exhausting having to constantly have to defend your right to exist, having to constantly prove you’re a human being worthy of being treated the same as everyone else…

The mental health of queer people is always under constant assault.

And on that note, I am going to get some more coffee and start working. Either on the book, or on one of these Pride entries. I can’t decide which. We’ll see. Anyway, enjoy your Sunday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

But Heaven Knows I’ve Tried

I don’t know if I have enough words to describe how much I love Ted Lasso.

I also am not sure I’ll ever get over the show coming to an end. Okay, that’s extreme. I will miss the show a lot though; the show was topnotch from top to bottom. There was never a bad performance from anyone in the cast; the writing was stellar; the videography terrific; and the story was just wonderful. There haven’t been many ensemble casts this large where everyone had the opportunity to truly dig in and develop identities as their characters; the chemistry between the cast members was astonishing (well done, casting director and production team!). With the exception of Sudeikis and Anthony Head (as the villain of the piece, Rupert), I didn’t recognize anyone in the cast…although you can probably imagine my delight to discover that Hannah Waddingham, so sublime as Rebecca Welton, was the goddamned Shame Nun on Game of Thrones, and the star swimmer’s mother on Sex Education! I thought she was gorgeous in Sex Education, but that didn’t prepare me for the knockout she turned out to be on Ted Lasso (and my God how I hated the Shame Nun and cheered at her final comeuppance).

I literally knew nothing about the show when it first dropped on Apple Plus. It was during the pandemic–perhaps even while we in the midst of the shutdown (forgive me, those years are blurry to me). I’d seen some bits about it on social media, and I remembered the character from the ESPN commercials (which I’d hated and thought were stupid) and it really didn’t seem like anything I’d enjoy. It was a fish-out-of-water comedy, and that is a trope that has been worked to death since the beginning of time…and it just seemed kind of silly, stupid and definitely lowbrow. I was bemoaning the end of Schitt’s Creek on Twitter, and my friend Alafair replied to my tweet, you need to watch Ted Lasso. There’s a lot more to it than you’d think. I like Jason Sudeikis (so does Paul; the movie We’re the Millers, for whatever reason, is a vastly underrated comedy film), and so one night we tuned in.

And by the end of that first episode, we were believers. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) When the credits rolled I looked at Paul and said, “I quite enjoyed that, did you?” and he agreed, and we went on a binge. How wonderful was that first season? Getting to meet the characters and how they interacted with each other–when Ted first met Keely; when Trent Crimm stood up and started asking asshole-ish reporter questions at Ted’s first press conference; the development of the relationship/friendship between Keely and Rebecca; and of course, that corny, stock, trope of a set-up: Rebecca, having been cheated on and publicly humiliated by her ex-husband, got majority ownership of the AFC Richmond soccer team, and hurt and angry beyond belief, she’s decided that since the only thing Rupert cares about is his soccer team, she’s going to take it and run it into the ground for revenge. We’ve all seen this set-up before, right? How many rom-coms or movies have used this similar insane kind of trope to build around? As I was watching, I kept thinking, okay, Ted is going to win her over and they’re going to become friends and then he’s going to find out what she was up to and be hurt and betrayed and…but the cast was appealing enough for me to care enough to keep watching. There was Jamie Tartt, the cocky young self-absorbed narcissistic star of the team; Sam, the new shy player from Nigeria; Nate, the sweet and shy and timid kit manager, constantly bullied by the players; and of course, Roy Kent (he’s here, he’s there, he’s every fucking where) the aging star who isn’t as fast as he used to be and is slightly resentful of the younger players coming up and taking over. The only people who are genuinely kind and friendly to Ted and his buddy Coach Beard are Keely–they hit it off immediately (I wondered if there was a romance budding there that first season), Nate, and Higgins, Rebecca’s assistant who kept Rupert’s affairs a secret from her and covered for him for years–so she is torturing him.

(And the song playing over the opening credits is a banger.)

And of course, Ted know nothing about soccer. He coached football (the American kind) at Wichita State, and the victory celebration video after they won the national title is what got Rebecca’s attention. But why would Ted accept a job on the other side of the world from his home, away from his wife and son, doing something he knows absolutely nothing about? The offer, as it turns out, came at a time when Ted gradually was becoming aware that his wife was unhappy and wanted out of the marriage. To try to save it, Ted accepted the job so he could give her space–half a planet’s worth. It’s still a bit of a stretch, but as we get to know Ted and Michelle and the rest of the cast through each episode, it becomes obvious that this is exactly the kind of thing Ted would do. His kindness, politeness, and friendliness–often mocked and made fun of by the more cynical characters in the cast–his uncanny gift for compassion, even when he doesn’t really understand, comes from a place of caring but we also learn it’s all a coping mechanism for him as well. His father committed suicide when Ted was a teen, and he’s never really come to grips with the loss, the grief and the pain. Now with his own family unit at risk of breaking up, of course he would do whatever he had to in order to keep the family together and sparing his son the same kind of pain he experienced when his father died.

That’s kind of deep for a comedy. But…Ted Lasso wasn’t just a comedy. It had a lot more layers and depth than I would have ever imagined.

Ted seems almost gimmicky at first. He’s always looking for the best in every person and every situation and has that “aw shucks” kind of cornball Dad humor. But his empathy for others, his ability to see things from their perspective removed from any personal bias, has an overwhelming effect on other people, begins making them rethink their own attitudes and biases and behaviors–encouraging them to be better versions of themselves. At one point in Season 1, Ted explains his entire philosophy of coaching (for want of a better word, it’s holistic) to Trent Crimm…a cynical, skeptical journalist trying to get to the root of who this man is and if he is for real…and spending time with Ted turns Trent himself into a believer. But the empathy, the kindness, the total giving of himself to the betterment of others is actually his coping mechanism. As long as he is helping other people work on themselves, Ted doesn’t have to confront his own demons and issues and problems. This ignoring his own needs for self-care and mental health is damaging him. It damaged his marriage to the point of it breaking. Ted cannot help himself the way he helps others…and as the show progresses he slowly learns and comes to understand that he needs help from others, and that his own vulnerability isn’t a weakness.

And had anyone told me in Season 1 that Season 3 Jamie Tartt would steal my heart, I would have laughed in your face.

Oh my God, what a character arc.

When we first meet Jamie, he’s someone we’ve seen before. Handsome, hot, and an amazing player, he is incredibly full of himself and doesn’t give a shit about anyone else but himself. Somehow he has managed to land Keely Fucking Jones (she will always be that to me, thank you, Roy Kent) as a girlfriend, which I never quite understood; why would Keely put up with this (albeit very hot) man boy? She eventually dumps him mid-season, and he gets sent back to his regular team–he was on loan, something I never really quite understood. He is, in fact, the one who wins the big game for the other team that sees Richmond undergo the humiliation of relegation, by doing something Ted coached him to do that he flatly refused to do when playing for him; making an extra pass to an open teammate rather than scoring himself…and it is in that episode, the finale of Season One, where we discover the key to Jamie’s personality and why he is the way he is (alluded to in an earlier episode, the one about ridding the stadium of ghosts); his alcoholic and highly abusive father–who never gave a shit about Jamie or his mother until he showed prowess at soccer–shows up, and Ted witnesses the abuse in person. Between season one and two, Jamie went a bit haywire, leaving his team to go on Love Island and getting voted off early. No team wants him because of the way he bailed on the team and because he’s a diva, so he has to beg Ted and the team to let him come back to Richmond. And he has to earn it, which he does, by humbling himself and being more of a team player. Watching Jamie grow–and played expertly by Phil Dunster, who deserves an Emmy for Season 3–was an absolute pleasure. He was a standout in Season 3, and it was weird how proud I was of a fictional character.

The scene where he teaches Roy to ride a bike was an absolute joy.

I loved all of these characters, and the talents that played them so beautifully. I could write entire essays about Sam, Roy, Phoebe, Higgins and any number of other characters on the show; I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite. But I am going to close–since it’s Pride Month, and they gave us such an amazing gift in the finale, which aired on Day One of June.

The last thing I expected to find in Season 3 of Ted Lasso was the story of a closeted gay player on the Richmond team. Colin Hewes, who was just adorable and got a line here and there–often funny ones–got his chance to shine as an actor in the third season. When the team’s sponsor switches from Dubai Air to Bantr in the second season, Keely is telling the team about them and she talks about how it’s spelled…and Colin pipes up with, “oh, like Grindr.” There was a bit of an awkward silence and then the scene moved forward. A throwaway, a little nothing, and I literally was amused by it and promptly forgot it. But there was a pay-off for that little line, as we discover in Season 3 that Colin is gay and deeply closeted, as well as deeply conflicted about keeping the secret from his teammates–who are both friend and family to him. I’ve already written about the beautiful scene in Amsterdam when Trent not only tells Colin that he knows, but comes out to him as well…becoming a kind of mentor for him. The fact that the scene between Colin and Trent was filmed in front of the monument to all the gay lives lost in the Holocaust (our history! No longer being ignored! Oh my heart!)? Bravo, Apple TV and everyone involved with this show. Bravo.

And finally…his best friend on the team finds out and stops speaking to him. Finally, in one of my favorite episodes ever of any television series, Colin finally has to come clean…and is welcomed by one and all. Ted’s speech about them caring about his being gay because they care about him, and how he never has to go through anything alone anymore, was just beautiful and I had tears running out of my eyes.

Hell, just writing about it is making me tear up again.

Representation matters. And having it on one of the most critically acclaimed and award-winning comedy series of the decade?

And the scene above? It’s also a callback to the conversation between Colin and Trent. Colin says he doesn’t want to be a spokesperson, doesn’t want any fuss, just wants to live his life and “be able to kiss my guy after a win, like the other fellas do with their gals.” And after the biggest win in the history of the team, he gets to do just that.

I would have cried had I not already been crying.

Because yes, the final game Ted coached for Richmond was epic. At one point during the game I realized I was just as tense as I get during big LSU games, marveling at the power of the show. The game was a fiction. It wasn’t real. But it mattered to me. I wanted them to win. I wanted my team, my little family of players on a fictional television series, to win because I wanted to see their joy. I wanted them to celebrate, and I wanted to see it. (I’ve watched the game segment several times now.)

And as much as I hate to say it, it is time to say adieu to one of my favorite shows. Thank you for the joy you’ve brought me the last three seasons. Thank you to the cast, the writers, and the crew.

And a big thank you to Alafair Burke, without whom I may have never watched in the first place.

I Will Survive

First I was afraid, I was petrified…

Every gay man of a certain age knows all the lyrics to that song–and can (and will) belt it out while on the dance floor. The minute that piano intro begins coming through the speakers is one of those moments when everyone in the bar pauses and makes the “wooooo” sound as the dance floor fills. One year during Southern Decadence we stopped into the Louisiana Pizza Kitchen for lunch. Every table had a rainbow flag on it, which was cool. One of my friends picked up the flag and started raising it while singing “I Will Survive” because it was, in his words, “the gay national anthem.” I laughed really hard–we all did–but it also stuck in my head. That was in 1995, and almost thirty years later I always hear the opening piano riff and think ah, the gay national anthem! All rise!

I also always smile when I remember it.

Being queer in America means surviving, adapting a protective coloring, as it were, so that you could pass without question during your work life (or people might question it, but not to your face). The one nice thing about being a gay man is the fact that, in theory, we can navigate through the world and “pass”; there are very few of us that someone can look at and think, definitively and definitely, without question oh he’s a homo. I have never thought i presented as particularly masculine; certainly when I was a child other kids sniffed it out about me. I don’t know if that means they had some sort of “bullying gaydar” operating at a high level, or if I was so obviously gay that it was noticeable. (I’ve always wondered.) The way we think other people see us is so vastly different from how they actually do see us; none of my friends were either surprised or shocked when I came out to them at long last. I think that’s part of the reason “I Will Survive” is a gay anthem; for one thing it’s extremely adaptable, for another it’s defiant–oh no, bitch, YOU’RE not bringing me and my life down–(has anyone ever done a study about why gay men are drawn to Black women singers with powerful voices?) and that’s a message all gay men can easily identify with: survival. Back in the day we used to have to develop powerful camouflage (no, I never did) and keep the gay personal life and the non-gay professional life divided by a clear line of demarcation.

That’s why going to gay bars was so important for so many of us; the ability to have a place where you could unabashedly be yourself amongst other people like you was so freeing, so life affirming. After I left the travel industry, I was tired of working for straight businesses and having to play down who I was. I was tired of two separate lives, so after I made the decision to leave that job, start working as a personal trainer and focus my energies on writing, I also made the conscious choice to not ever work in a straight office environment ever again. The gyms I worked at were different, despite being owned and operated by straight people, because I never spent a lot of time there. I came in, trained my clients or did my own workout, and then bailed to come home to write. I have not really had a job in the straight world ever since, managing to work in queer spaces most of my life since.

With the community so hatefully under attack again, it takes me back to those olden days before Lawrence v. Texas was decided; when our sex lives made us criminals. I cannot emphasize this enough–before Lawrence, any time any member of my community indulged in sexual relations, they were breaking the law. Our very existence was outlawed. Legally, it was okay to be gay so long as you never acted on it. Which was very similar to the “don’t ask don’t tell” thing, or the strictures passed along by religious hierarchies to their memberships about being queer–it’s okay, as long as you never act on it. Hate the sin, love the sinner–that whole nonsensical thing that automatically relegates all queer people to a lower level existence in society.

Last night we watched the Amazon Prime documentary series on the Duggar family and their entire religious cult (not based in anything scriptural or Christian, really), Shiny Happy People, and it’s actually very chilling. I never watched their show, but it was during the time that TLC went from The Learning Channel to Touching Little Children; the Duggars anchored the channel’s reality program about abusive religious cults that demeaned women and celebrated over-fertility; it was around this same time TLC began promoting and broadcasting shows about beauty pageants for little girls–essentially, the sexualization of little girls for trophies and checks and tiaras. So, on the one hand they had shows with the Duggars and other families like them–abusive cults where children are often molested and it’s covered up–while also promoting and publicizing the sexualization of little girls in shows like Toddlers and Tiaras. Add in the fact that Josh Duggar–the predator groomed by his parents to be a predator–was going to work for the religious zealots known as the American Family Association (long known for it’s homophobia and misogyny) and pursuing a career in politics as a right-wing zealot and homophobe with direct ties to the Huckabee family, including Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (An unholy alliance forged in hell that no one talks about at all anymore. I’d ask that bitch at every press conference if she and her father condoned the Duggars covering up their son’s molestation of children, including his sisters, and why they never spoke out against the Duggars, and just how close were the two families?)

The sheer misogyny of their beliefs and values–women have no value outside of the home and bearing children; if a male molests girls he is to be protected and the girls sacrificed–and women must obey their husband who is also their Lord and Master.

And they call queers perverts?

Take the sty from thy own eye, evangelicals. Seriously. But thank you, Amazon Prime, for releasing this documentary during Pride Month; let’s remind everyone of how foul homophobes are on every level.

The Internet saga continues. It was out when I got home from the office yesterday, and so Cox is coming out again this morning. If this continues to be an issue, we are definitely going to switch providers. There’s a local company our landlady uses that works well, and of course, since they’re local they are a lot easier to deal with–no text or on-line conversations with “support staff” needed. It eventually came back on after a couple of hours, but I am really getting terribly sick of this shit, you know? I have things to do today and messing with Cox isn’t helpful. Ah, well, there are worse things. I want to work on the book today, I need to run some errands, and I want to get some reading done–I want to finish the book I am reading and enjoying so I can move on to the new Megan Abbott, which I cannot wait to read.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday and I’ll check back in with you later.

I’m Coming Out

So, one of the things I’ve decided to do for Pride Month is spend the entire month talking on her about, well, being a gay American and how that impacted (and continues to impact) my life every day. I have written numerous essays over the years, many of them with a very limited audience, and I’ve always had an eye to collecting them into a book, or using them to build a memoir of sorts around. But…this one I am sharing with you all this morning was very well received. I was asked to write a letter to my sixteen-year-old self, agreed to do it, and then completely forgot about it. I received a reminder email about it, which I read when checking my phone at the train station in Florence where we were waiting for the train to Venice. Horrified, I sat down in the first class car (we splurged), opened my laptop, and started writing. I reread it several times, made some edits, and then, as we were pulling into the station in Venice, I emailed it in. It went live overnight while we were in Venice, and when I checked in on-line the following day (taking the train back to Florence) I was shocked to see it had gone a bit viral (for me), being shared a lot and getting lots of likes and comments. Anyway, here it is, my letter to a sixteen year old me while on a train in Italy. (Rereading this made me laugh–as I pretended I had written it before the trip, so they wouldn’t know I waited to the last minute. For the record, I always wait till the last minute, and I also didn’t want them to know I’d forgotten about it.)

Dear Greg as a 16 year old:

I am writing to you on your birthday; our birthday, I would suppose. We have just turned 53 (I am going to henceforth refer to our disparate selves in the singular; Teen Greg as you; current self in the first person—the royal-sounding “we” sounds a bit on the pompous side). In two days, I am leaving for Italy. Italy! As a teenager, you are perhaps lying on your bed, either reading a book (if I recall correctly, that summer before your senior year you worked your way through James Michener; Centennial being the last one you read before school started) or daydreaming of being a writer, of being an adult, of getting out of Kansas, of being a success and traveling the world.

I know there are times when you wonder if you will ever leave Kansas, if your dream of being a writer will come true. I know there are times when you despaired of this; but please rest assured that on your 53rd birthday you will have published over thirty novels and fifty short stories. You will be president of the local chapter of Mystery Writers of America as well as serving a term on the national board and chairing several committees. You will have edited almost twenty anthologies, and been nominated for awards more times than you can remember—and will have even won some.

I know you think you are different from everyone else you know at your school, and in some ways you are. Your classmates will fall in love and marry, have children and watch those children grow up and marry and have children of their own. But that difference you are so ashamed of, the one you carefully hide from everyone you know and deny when confronted, is nothing you need feel shame for. I know there are nights when you lie in your bed and wonder if you will ever feel love, will ever be worthy of being loved, or whether your difference will force you to live your life, and walk your path, alone. I know that in 1977 it seems impossible not to be ashamed of who you are, and weight of that secret weighs heavily on your heart. But I can assure you that not only will the day come when you can hold your head high and shout at the top of the lungs I am a gay man, but likewise, you will find a love so pure and beautiful and remarkable that some nights before you go to sleep you will think about how lucky and blessed you are in wonder. There will be times when you are reading a book and you will look up at the man you love as he sits on the couch playing with your cat and you will be so suddenly overwhelmed with love that your eyes will fill with tears.

And several months before you turn 53, you and the man you love will decide to jointly celebrate your birthdays as well as the landmark of your nineteenth anniversary together with an eight day trip to Italy, visiting Pisa, Venice, Florence and Tuscany.

Just as you once dreamed.

As for never getting out of Kansas, you will find your true home on the day you turn 33. You will get out of a cab and step onto the cracked and tilted sidewalks of New Orleans and become overwhelmed with a sense of belonging and home. And two short years later, two weeks before you turn 35, you will move to New Orleans where you will hopefully live out the rest of a life that proved richer and more amazing than you could have ever hoped.

Yet as I write this, I realize that knowing these things lie in your future will affect the decisions and choices you make. Part of who I am now is because of the sorrows and sadness and bad choices you will make in your future. Even one different choice, one different path, will change your timeline and it is possible, even very likely, that I would not be sitting at my desk after packing for this trip to Italy writing this letter to you. I would not change my current reality for anything. I live in the city I love with the man I love doing the work I love living a life I love.

So I am glad I cannot actually let the 16 year old me know what the 53 year old me knows. I prefer to believe that writing this letter will send the positive energy back through time to give you the strength to always persevere, always survive, and always keep moving forward.

And maybe that is where my strength came from; maybe that is how I  managed to find the way to hold my head high and keep chasing my dreams.

As lovely as it would be to tell you this, that every one of your dreams will not only come true but better than you dreamed them, I am glad that I cannot.

With all my love,

Greg at 53

Almost ten years ago. Wow, that was a long time ago.

Heaven or Las Vegas

Thursday and my last day in the office for the week. Huzzah? Huzzah. I do have to go into the office ungodly early for a department meeting, but that’s okay. I may just have to swing by Five Guys on my way home as a weekend treat. WHY NOT? Why not indeed.

Yesterday was similar to the day before; I didn’t feel tired but I also didn’t feel rested. We were busy at work all day, too, which was cool; the day always passes faster if we’re busy. I was very tired when I got home, worked on the book and knocked off another chapter, then we settled in to watch the finale of Ted Lasso, which was simply marvelous; I am going to watch it again (I cried a lot of the way through it, not ashamed to admit it) and was enormously satisfied with the ending. There will be another, more in depth conversation about the show to come at some point, when I’ve had more of a chance to digest it. I see that there are some people who aren’t happy with it–but it hit every note for me perfectly. Did I get everything I wanted in the end? Of course not, but that was never going to happen, and I am very grateful I found the show (thanks again to Alafair Burke, who told me I’d love it in the first place and she was right). I’ll miss AFC Richmond, but…am grateful that I got to know them all. It was simply magic.

We also watched a George Michael documentary–not the one Paul wanted to watch, alas; we’ll watch that one tonight–and then I had to catch up on the Vanderpump Rules reunion, which was hilarious and fun and reality gold. I also loved that almost every commercial break featured a commercial with Ariana Madix, who is having probably the best revenge tour in the history of reality television.

I slept well last night, and this morning I feel rested and awake and ready to go; first time this week, alas, but what can you do? The book is progressing nicely; I may even have time to revise it one more time before it’s due to be turned in. I have a big weekend coming; a weekend of writing and reading (I want to finish Chris Clarkson’s marvelous That Summer Night on Frenchmen Street so I can move on to the new Megan Abbott) and cleaning. I want to get the car washed this weekend and vacuumed out, I need to get moving on the scanning project, and I should get another box down from the attic to go through. I need to drop books off at the library sale on Saturday, too. Sounds like I am going to need a to-do list specific for the weekend, doesn’t it? I’m also going to have some things delivered, I think, on Saturday.

I feel good this morning, about everything, which is lovely. It’s amazing what a difference it makes when I sleep well, isn’t it? And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday Eve, everyone!

Fifty-Fifty Clown

Yesterday wasn’t pleasant. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t pleasant. I slept well but didn’t feel completely rested, and we were in ozone advisory for most of the day. The air conditioning at work isn’t functioning properly–it was 76 degrees when I got there in my testing room; 82 when I left–and it was also muggy; it rained late in the afternoon. Muggy and warm are a toxic combination for my sinuses, so that was making me miserable for most of the day. I ran errands after work, and picked up my copy of Beware the Woman, the new Megan Abbott, which is now next on my TBR Pile. Then Ted Lasso dropped later than usual, so I couldn’t stay up late enough to watch it and thus will have to avoid social media all day…which isn’t really a bad thing. I did work some on the book as well, but I am not sure if it was good work or not because I was out of sorts with the day.

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity, as the T-shirts used to say. Do they still sell those in the tourist shops in the Quarter? I wrote about that in the first Scotty book, the French Quarter that used to be, just after the turn of the century. It had already changed and evolved from when we first moved here, some four or five years earlier; perhaps some of it was just me getting older and my own life situation changing. But I do remember how raggedy and dive bar-like Cafe Lafitte in Exile used to be, when that balcony wasn’t the safest place in the world to go out on while drinking. The 90’s were a different time entirely in the French Quarter, although I do wonder sometimes if I am doing the “rose-colored glasses” thing about New Orleans in the 90s. (Writing about that time period–Never Kiss a Stranger–does bring it all back to me in some ways, and I do hope that I’m not simply being nostalgic about the time because I’m writing about it.)

I’ve decided to cancel the cable appointment. The schedule at work this afternoon filled up quite a bit during the day yesterday, and it’s working for now. I know I’ll get irritated when and if the Internet proves to be an issue again, but here’s hoping it will happen when I can schedule them to come out when it won’t interfere with my job. I don’t think I slept very well again last night–surprise–but I can make it through the day. I can come home straight from work and watch Ted Lasso when I get home because Paul’s working from home today to write a grant anyway. (It did occur to me last night that I could just have Paul deal with it since he’d be home, but Paul has no idea how to talk to the cable people and it’s easier just to cancel, with a reschedule planned if needed.)

We also finished watching Chicago Party Aunt, which we really enjoyed. It was surprisingly funny–and the dynamic between the low-rent Chicago sports fan version of Auntie Mame and her gay nephew was surprisingly well done, and also hilarious.

Feeling rather dull this morning, so I am going to bring this to a close and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.

Cherry-Colored Funk

Memorial Day Monday, and here we are. Ordinarily I would already be at the office and working, instead I find myself resting and at home and up later than usual swilling coffee. Ironically, after having such a terrible day on Saturday, I rallied for a marvelous Sunday. The Cox guy was much earlier than scheduled (and we now have a modern, working, full strength and much faster modem; our old one was the one we got when we moved back into this apartment in 2006, I think? We must have had wireless because there was no way to get a line up to Paul’s computer, right?), and even before he arrive I managed to get back on track with the book and tear through a significant section. I am feeling a bit more confident about the book as I go; it’s taking shape nicely and it’s super nice to be cutting out extraneous bits. It’s also interesting to see how often I repeat myself, or explain the same thing repeatedly in chapter after chapter. I also finished reading Lori Roy’s Let Me Die in His Footsteps, which was marvelous (more on that later) and I picked out my next read (more on that later). It was a nice day, really, over all, and I couldn’t have been more smug and self-satisfied as I took myself up to bed last night had I tried. I also managed to relax some. We finished watching a true crime documentary called How to Create a Sex Scandal, which was utterly horrifying, moved on to the new Shazam movie (which was terrible, really terrible) and then started watching this insanely funny animated series called Chicago Party Aunt, which is so much funnier than I ever could have dared to dream. I slept well and woke up earlier than expected this morning, but I decided to go ahead and get up anyway.

I am so relieved about the new modem, you have no idea. And because the cords are longer, it no longer has to sit on the end table; it can reach to sit on top of the bookcase behind my easy chair, so Scooter won’t be knocking it off the table anymore. (Yes, not only was our modem old as dirt, it was regularly knocked off the table by Scooter. That thing really took a beating, and it’s a miracle it lasted as long as it did). My computer and the Apple TV do seem to be much faster, which is also always a lovely plus. And being up this early means I can get this finished and spend some time in my easy chair reading That Summer Night on Frenchmen Street by Chris Clarkson, which I am really looking forward to enjoying before I start work for the day. There’s also a bit of a mess in the apartment from things having to get moved around and so forth, so I will need to do some touching up around here today while I work on the book. And of course, tomorrow it’s back to the spice mines for a shorter than normal work week, which is cool.

I also feel a slight bit out of sorts this morning. I’m not sure what it is; if it’s getting up early or what, but nothing a shower and a shave can’t take care of, I am sure. I also need to start archiving files to make more room for new files. I suppose a lot of stuff in the filing cabinet can be moved into an archive of sorts; I am beginning to wonder if I really do need to keep all this shit. Of course, I could just scan old contracts and so forth and dispose of the physical copies at some point. Do I really need to keep short story contracts from twenty years ago? Probably not, and likewise, I don’t think I need tax returns that are over seven years old, either. I’ve become such a pack rat, which is really not in my best interests or the best interests of the apartment, for that matter. Maybe the goal for the rest of the year is to slowly but surely get rid of all this paper. And of course I can always stand to shed more books.

Last night I was scrolling through my Kindle app on my iPad and realizing what a plethora of treasures are there in my app. I am a sucker for those ninety-nine cent or dollar ninety-nine sales on ebooks; I generally will buy the ebook copy of something I have in a print copy so I can happily donate the print copy once I’ve finished reading it (I still prefer to read in a physical form). There’s also all kinds of great research materials in there, too. At least ebooks don’t take up a lot of room in the Lost Apartment, you know? I also, through cleaning more thoroughly, have come across a lot of my COVID masks–I’d been wondering where they’d all gone; and I only found like five of them; I had many many more. I suppose I can throw the majority of them away, although I may take to wearing one again during cold/flu season in the clinic. I’ve only gotten a cold/flu once during the past three years, and it was kind of nice, you know? That was due to the masking and constant hand-washing, and I’ve allowed myself to go slack on that.

All right, on that note I am going to bring this to a close so I can head into the spice mines for today. Have a lovely Memorial Day, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later.

Hollywood

Someone asked me once, many years ago, about who I would cast in a movie or television series if the Scotty books were ever adapted. I honestly don’t remember who I originally cast, all those years ago, as Scotty, if given a choice; time has made Swiss cheese out of my memory banks, alas. I do remember thinking Christopher Meloni would be my choice for Frank, even though physically they aren’t alike (Frank is tall and more lean than Meloni) and I know I wanted to cast Pam Grier as Venus (God, what dream casting!), but the rest I don’t remember. Just as well, really, I suppose. If I were to cast them today, I’d probably go with someone like Jake Gyllenhaal as Scotty, or Tom Holland; someone like that. Frank would be a very good role for Alan Ritchson, but he’s not old enough, alas. Maybe Holland as Scotty, Gyllenhaal as Colin, and Ritchson for Frank?

That casting would make for some really amazing sex scenes.

But I don’t waste a lot of my time speculating about movie or television deals. The Scotty series was optioned once for two years, but nothing ever came of it (although I miss those quarterly checks I used to get before the option lapsed) and I don’t really see how one could film one of the Scotty books, anyway. Bourbon Street Blues would require a mob of hot male extras in various stages of undress, for one thing, and then a night shoot in a swamp. Jackson Square Jazz is more internal, and Mardi Gras Mambo would require the recreation of not only Carnival but one of the parades on St. Charles.

It’s fun to think about, but…truth be told I’d just sell the rights and sit back to wait and see how it all turned out. I really don’t have much desire to write for television or film; never have, actually. I also always remember James M. Cain’s response to a question about whether Hollywood had “ruined” his novels; he turned around, pointed to the copies on his bookshelf and said, “They look just fine to me.” (Caveat: at one point in my life I really want to be a writer for soaps. That is the only interest in writing for any type of live action entertainment I’ve ever had.)

Yesterday wound off not being such a great day, I’m afraid. I woke up feeling pretty good and seemed like everything was going to align for a pretty good day. I spent the morning doing touch-ups around the house between reading more of Lori Roy’s marvelous Edgar-winning Let Me Die in His Footsteps; I ran the errands that were needed; and I did some filing. But just when I was getting ready to settle in to work on the book…the Internet went out. Yes, we were having modem problems again, and after an extremely frustrating hour spent dealing with on-line tech assistance (which isn’t very helpful) I remembered something from the last time something went wrong with the Internet and I was able to get a stopgap fix into place, but by then my mood had gone down the toilet and I was feeling a lot of anxiety and frustration on top of anger. So, I sat down again my easy chair and reread the chapters again that I was supposed to be revising to see if the fixes I came up with the other night would actually work, and I believe that to be the case. It was also a reminder than I am still in the process of working through grief, because I really snapped and went down the dark path rather quickly and easily yesterday–so I thought it was probably best to simply go ahead and ride it out. Cox is coming out today to bring a new modem and get it set up, so hopefully this will put an end to this periodic Internet issue. (Our modem is ancient; so ancient they can’t even service them anymore, which is what we found out the last time there was an issue, and even as I type these words I am remembering the last tech advised me to get a new one and I never did because I forgot, of course.)

So today I am going to spend most of my day working on the revision and getting caught up. I have emails to answer but they can wait until Tuesday. I want to spend some more time with Lori Roy’s novel this morning, maybe even finishing it, and get a lot of writing done around other things, like touching shit up and more filing and cleaning the kitchen and so forth. I am pleased I got the errands handled yesterday and some cleaning around here, which was sorely needed. I also found my hearing test results so I can start trying to navigate the world of obtaining and financing hearing aids. There’s a part of me that thinks it will be marvelous to be able to hear at 100% again–if I ever did–and there’s another part of me that thinks it’s kind of nice that I dont hear everything. And I am trying to be kinder to. myself. That’s why I walked away from everything and just spent the day yesterday dealing with the negativity the day had introduced into my life. I knew I wouldn’t be able to really write anything because I was in too negative a place, and trying to work would make the darkness even worse (sometimes work can get me through the darkness, but yesterday I could tell–and this wasn’t me trying to be lazy or anything, either–it was one of those times when I would find the work frustrating and aggravating. The downward spiral was such that there was no spiraling up, and anything else would keep the spiral turning on its downward axis. I do know that much about myself–and even knew that I would probably try to beat myself up over losing a day to the moodiness and subconscious grief. But progress in the mental health sector of my life was made–I recognized and diagnosed where I was at yesterday and what would make it worse rather than better, and even this morning I am taking that as a win rather than berating myself for the loss of a day’s work.

And I am really enjoying turning this piece of shit into an actual Scotty book. (I was worried during the completion of the earlier drafts that I didn’t know how to write a Scotty book anymore; those worries were for naught. I just have to always remember that Scotty is there, inside my brain, and I will always find his voice again, even if it takes a while. I should always revisit one of the books before I try writing another one.) I have that sense of who he is again and what the books should be like and I am hearing his voice in my head again, all of which I am counting as wins.

I was also thinking about the next Scotty book–because when I am ever not looking ahead to what’s next on the horizon–as well as a call for submissions for an anthology I want to write something for. Crazy, right?

So, I think I am going to make another cup of coffee, go read for about an hour, and then dive back into the book. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I’ll talk to you again either later today or perhaps not until tomorrow.

Get Together

Saturday morning of a three day weekend and how lovely is that? Thank you, whoever made the effort to give us Memorial Day as a national holiday; this lowly worker is eternally grateful for any extra paid time off. I intend to work this entire weekend; nose firmly affixed to grindstone and butt glued to shabby and disheveled desk chair whilst fingers move rapidly over the keyboard. Yesterday after work I was too tired–more on that later–to do much of anything other than mindless chores, and while doing those mindless chores another integral part of how to improve the book came to me; shortly thereafter, while putting away clean dishes another tumbril fell into place; so my entire weekend’s worth of writing just popped into my head. How incredibly lucky am I? Terribly, shockingly so.

Paul and I watched the Being Mary Tyler Moore documentary on MAX (which always makes me think of Carol Burnett doing Nora Desmond on her old variety show) last night and it was quite interesting. We forget how recently it was that The Mary Tyler Moore Show was breaking new ground; it was during my lifetime. Saturday night television on CBS when I was a kid was the ultimate must-see television; a three hour block of comedy of such high quality it may never have been equaled since. I loved her show; I loved the cast, and it still holds up today, despite how much things have changed, culturally and socially, in the decades since it went off the air after seven glorious seasons. There was a time when Paul was between jobs here in New Orleans when he became addicted to reruns of both it and Rhoda (when I was a kid I didn’t much care for Rhoda, despite having loved her character on the original show. As an adult, I found it much funnier than I ever had as a kid; not sure why that made a difference other than that it did), and I was amazed at how well the show held up.

It’s also interesting thinking about that period of my life (the 1970s) again–because it’s been on my mind. There’s an idea formulating in the back of my head; a crime novel told from a twelve year old’s perspective set in the suburbs in 1975. I’ve thought about it a lot lately. I had the original idea sometime back early in the pandemic, when I was going through my true crime documentary phase of condom-packing back in the day. It comes back to me now and again, and lately it’s been coming to me with more and more regularity, which means it will probably be the next book after the ones already in progress are completed and out of my hair. I have no idea when that might actually be, but I have a great title for it, and images keep dancing in and out of my head. I know the crime and how my POV character becomes involved in it, but I am not sure of much else of the rest–the flashes are bits and pieces of story and scene that I start filling in, in a journal or in a notebook. I already have the file for it made, too.

I have so many files. I am swimming in files. Buried in files, to the point where between the computer files and the physical files I may never ever be able to organize or get rid of any of them. It seems like I am constantly having to find room for more files in places. Heavy heaving sigh.

But I slept deeply and well and even later than yesterday morning, so that’s a very good thing. I have to run a couple of errands today and I have all kinds of writing to get done today, which should go easier this morning because of all the thinking I did last night. We’ll see, I suppose, is the best way to look at it. But as I mentioned, I have to get the mail and stop at the grocery store for a few things (so irritating, really), and so I am hoping after that to be able to dive headfirst into the book so I can reach my daily goal for the weekend. Paul will probably be out most of the afternoon, as usual on Saturdays (he meets his trainer at noon, and then either goes to the office or rides the bike for another few hours) so I have no excuse for not being productive today. Once I finish this I am going to go sit in my chair for a little while and read (I want to finish Lori Roy’s marvelous Let Me Die in His Footsteps at long last this weekend; I cannot believe how long it’s taken me to finish something that I really am enjoying and have been itching to get back to. Lori is one of my favorite writers of the last ten years; not one of her novels have ever disappointed me…but more on that when I finish the book and talk about it on here), and then will head out to the errands around noonish. I want to read for about an hour or so before writing, and then running the errands in order to come back home and write for a while. I may even pick up grocery store sushi (don’t judge me) so I don’t have to be concerned about lunch, either. I may make shrimp creole for dinner, too; I need to do something with that leftover celery. I also cleaned out the refrigerator a bit yesterday as well–should finish that over the weekend, too.

The reason I was so fatigued and drained yesterday was because I got to do that ZOOM interview with Margot Douaihy yesterday, and so I spent a good hour researching her on-line, digging through the book for references, and of course trying to come up with good questions for her. I don’t know that I actually managed to come up with good questions, but when you’re working with someone as smart and talented and layered as Margot, it’s very easy for forty-five minutes to shoot by. I didn’t even get to all the questions I had for her; I looked at the time on my computer and realized we’d been going for three quarters of an hour, and had i continued asking questions we could have been there for the rest of the afternoon. That has always been my issue with interviews, really; whether ZOOM recordings or written ones, you can never get everything in that you want and there’s never enough space to be as thorough. I would love to do in-depth pieces on people like in Vanity Fair or Rolling Stone; I remember Ann Patchett telling Paul and I about having to fly to London on GQ’s dime to interview Liam Neeson or someone like that, and thinking man I would love to have that kind of opportunity. But it exhausted me mentally and physically, so I was very glad I had gotten all my work-at-home chores completed before it started because I was unable to do much of anything when it was finished. I did some chores–the dishes, finished laundering the bed linens, but other than that I was just in my chair letting my mind wander as I watched documentaries about history on Youtube.

And on that note, I think I’m going to make another cup of coffee and repair to the living room to read while my mind continues waking up. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and I’ll talk to you again tomorrow or maybe even later today; one can never be certain.