Please Remember Me

I am often, incorrectly, referred to as a “New Orleans expert.”

Nothing, as I inferred in that sentence, could be further than the truth.

Don’t get me wrong–I absolutely, positively love New Orleans, for many and varied reasons. The short, elevator-pitch answer is always Because I’m not the weird one here. And it’s true; New Orleans is an eccentric city filled with eccentrics. No other city in North America is like it, even remotely; New Orleans is a city that doesn’t abhor strangeness, but rather embraces it. When I came here for my thirty-third birthday in 1994, when I got out of the cab at the intersection of St. Ann and Bourbon that first night, my actual birthday, to go out to the gay bars of the Quarter, I knew I was home. There was no doubt in my mind, no question; just an immediate and instant connection with the city and I knew, not only that I would eventually live here, but that if and when I did all my  dreams would come true.

And that feeling was right. I fell in love with New Orleans, I fell in love in New Orleans, and after I moved here, all of my dreams did, in fact, come true.

So, when I write about New Orleans my deep and abiding love and passion for the city inevitably comes through. But I always kind of smile inwardly to myself when people call me an expert on the city; I am hardly that, and libraries could be filled with what I don’t know about the city. Sure, I do know some things, but an expert? Not even remotely close.

A perfect case in point is Milneburg. What, you may every well ask, is Milneburg? Milneburg was a resort village on the lake shore that many New Orleanians would escape to during the wretched heat of the summer (and I am vastly oversimplifying this); I’ve read about it in history books and so forth. I even thought Murder in Milneburg might make for an interesting historical mystery. I always saw it, though, in my mind’s eye, as close to the parish line between Orleans and Jefferson parishes; closer to Metairie and the causeway. So, you can imagine my shock when I saw a map of Milneburg posted on one of the New Orleans historical Facebook pages I belong to, and realized that I was completely wrong: there was a railroad line from New Orleans to Milneburg (which I knew) that ran along what is now Elysian Fields Avenue. 

So, Milneburg was actually where the University of New Orleans is now located; and the train line continued along east, crossing at the Rigolets.

Some New Orleans expert I am, which is why I decided to start reading more histories of the city over the last few years. It’s been quite an education, and there are still some things I don’t quite grasp–like when the Basin Canal was filled in to become Basin Street, and what relation that had to Storyville and Treme, because the train station also used to be located near Storyville (this was part of the reason why the drive to clean up Storyville and end legal prostitution in New Orleans was successful; the other part was because New Orleans was an embarkation point for the military during World War I and the Pentagon frowned on delivering green military recruits to whorehouses).

So, yeah, some expert I am.

But I really enjoyed Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street.

bourbon street

There are no straight lines in nature. Nor are there any right angles. Rather, intricate arcs and fractures merge and bifurcate recurrently, like capillaries in a plant leaf or veins in an arm. Nowhere is this sinuous geometry more evident than in deltas, like that of the Mississippi River. Starting eighteen thousand years ago, warming global temperatures melted immense ice sheets across North America. The runoff aggregated to form the lower Mississippi River and flowed southward bearing vast quantities of sediment. The bluffs and terraces that confined the channel to a broad alluvial valley petered out roughly between present-day Lafayette and Baton Rouge in Louisiana, south of which lay the Gulf of Mexico.

Into that sea disembogued the Mississippi, its innumerable tons of alluvium smothering the soft marshes of the Gulf Coast and accumulating upon the hard clays of the sea floor. So voluminous was the Mississippi’s muddy water column that it overpowered the (relatively weak tides and currents of) Gulf of Mexico, thus prograding the deposition farther into the sea. Occasional crevasses in the river’s banks diverted waters to the left or right, creating multiple river mouths and thus multiple depositions. High springtime flow also overtopped the river’s banks and released a think sheet of sediment-laden water sideways, further raising the delta’s elevation.

In this manner, southeastern Louisiana rose from the sea. The process took about 7,200 years, making the Mississippi Delta, as Mark Twain put it, “the youthfulest batch of country that lies around there anywhere.” Young, dynamic, fluid, warm, humid: flora and fauna flourish in such conditions, as evidenced by the verdant vegetation and high productivity of the delta’s ecosystem. Humans, on the other other, view these same conditons as inhospitable, dangerous, even evil, and endeavor to impose rigidity and rectitude upon them, so as to better exploit the delta’s resources.

If New Orleans is known for anything, it’s Bourbon Street. Everyone has heard about Bourbon Street, it seems; just as they’ve heard about Carnival/Mardi Gras, beads, and show us your tits (which locals do NOT do–either yell it or bare them). Campanella’s book traces the history of the famous street, and by extension, the French Quarter itself, from its very beginnings when the French arrived and designed the streets, to its modern day incarnation as a street of endless partying and no little debauchery. It’s very well researched, and Campanella, who I believe teaches at Tulane, is the true expert on the city; I follow his pages on Facebook, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much inspiration and information Bourbon Street  has given me. I’ve put so many page markers in my copy that I’m worried about breaking the spine!

One thing that my reading of New Orleans history has further emphasized to me–and it also really comes through strongly in Campanella’s book–is how New Orleans has always been a city of neighborhoods, and how each neighborhood of the city had (has?) its own unique  sense of itself, and how those who lived in those neighborhoods so strongly identified with them. The evolution of the French Quarter from the original city and seat of its government, to the original French leaving and being replaced by immigrants (as late as the 1960’s the lower quarter was known as ‘little Sicily’ because of all the Italian immigrants and their descendants who lived there), and then evolved again into a different type of neighborhood, with mixed incomes and everything from inexpensive apartments to gradiose condos; and a variety of ethnicities, races, sexualities, and gender identities.

One of the primary concerns modern-day New Orleanians have is the fear of the loss of those neighborhoods; because those neighborhoods were the incubators for all the things that makes New Orleans so special and unique: the music, the art, the literature, and the characters. Short-term rentals are carving up neighborhoods and the rents/property values are currently climbing, with no peak in sight, and people are rightfully concerned about these things.

But one thing I’ve learned from reading these histories, and Campanella’s in particular, is that New Orleans has always changed and evolved, yet has also always managed to keep that unique strangeness that make it New Orleans somehow intact.

If you love New Orleans or find it at all interesting, I cannot recommend Bourbon Street enough to you.

Something in Red

Well, we made it to Friday yet again, did we not? One week from today the St. Charles parades kick back into gear again; and the madness of Carnival season descends on those of us who live inside the box. (“The box”, for those of you Not From Here, designates the most common parade route: Tchoupitoulas up Napoleon to St. Charles to Canal to Convention Center Boulevard; the river/Tchoupitoulas forms the one side of the box–it’s usually open somewhat to traffic, but when the parades are lined up…it’s best to avoid. Living inside the box means you have to be home and parked at least an hour to two hours before the start time of the first parade, else you’ll be unable to get home.) So, yes, for a total of about seven or eight days scattered over two weekends, the parade schedule will dominate my life and force me to accommodate my life around them. It’s a very fun, if exhausting, time.

The weather changed dramatically, as it always does at this time of year when it rains. It was in the thirties overnight, and while it is supposed to be in the fifties today–it’s going back up to sunny and warm this weekend–it still feels like its in the thirties inside the Lost Apartment today, which is rather unpleasant. I’m layered, and the space heater is one, but it’s still unpleasant and I really didn’t want to get out of bed this morning at all. But I did get up, and I am going to go to the gym–it’s gym morning–around ten; I’d set the alarm for seven but the bed felt simply too delicious to get out of, so instead of nine I’ll go at ten. Compromise. I am resisting the urge to say I’ll go when I get home from work because I think we all know that will turn into well, I went twice this week and I’m tired and home now.

Which is how it always starts, you know.

I finished reading Bourbon Street this week, and have moved on to City of a Million Dreams, which opens in a prologue about the Confederate monuments tied into Allen Toussaint’s funeral. Jason Berry is a very good writer, and I am already drawn into his (nonfiction) story; which is incredibly cool. I am also enjoying Tracy Clark’s Broken Places, which is also cool. I’ll probably spend some more time with it tonight when I get home from work.

We finished watching the second season of  Sex Education, and of course it sort of ended the way I feared it might; while everyone else’s story-lines came to a rather lovely close, others had to be seeded in order for there to be a third season, and of course the core storyline is Otis and Maeve’s relationship. Otis and Maeve are the odd couple we can’t help but root for to get together; the poor but extremely smart daughter of a drug addict with a sharp tongue and the awkward son of the sex therapist; we’ve seen them grow beyond their original selves and develop as people as well as fall in love with each other; so wanting them to get together is the pull of their story–and even if they did somehow wind up together, for purposes of the show they would have to be pulled apart anyway so we could root for them to get back together again.

I’ve also gotten moving on the Secret Project again; this new opening was the right choice, and I’ve actually found the character’s voice. As I worked on it last night after work, getting in a very difficult four or five hundred words, despite that struggle I also couldn’t help but realize my mind was filling in other details, and both the story and the characters were beginning to expand inside my mind, which is terribly important–and also caused a breakthrough regarding the two unfinished manuscripts languishing in files in my computer: I don’t believe I ever found the core of the main characters in either of them, and that’s why I am so deeply dissatisfied with both manuscripts, and why they never feel right. I do think this last, third revision of Bury Me in Shadows is the closest I’ve gotten to getting his voice right; but this breakthrough on the Secret Project last night also opened the door to what is going wrong with the others. So, once I get the Secret Project finished–the goal is to have it finished by Valentine’s Day/first day of St. Charles parades–I can spend that following weekend primarily working on who my main character is, and reviewing this most recent rewrite, with an eye to making sure I have his voice right.

And then perhaps I can get it finished, once and for all.

I also have to write blog entries about Bourbon Street and another book I finished reading for the Reread Project; if nothing else, I can always say I have the blog entries finished.

I also found The Talented Mr. Ripley on Netflix, so I am going to start watching that while I walk on the treadmill at the gym. I also want to watch this new true crime Netflix series, The Pharmacist, about the drug problem in New Orleans. I watched the trailer for it last night, and it looks quite interesting, to say the least. We also need to get caught up on Megan Abbott’s Dare Me, which of course has been DVRing merrily; I think it might be more fun to binge it, quite frankly.

I’ve also got a short story to start writing–not to mention all the ones languishing in their folders, begging to be finished or desperate for revisions–but this particular one has a due date, and I’d really like to get it started; which means more Sherlock reading tonight when I get home from the office, interspersed with Tracy Clark.

And on that note, I need to eat some carbs for energy before I head to the gym this morning; y’all behave and have a lovely Friday, okay?

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Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares)

Hello, Thursday, and how are you doing this lovely morning?

Yesterday was bizarre. I got up in the morning and took care of some business while I woke up–laundry, dishes, etc.–aware that we were expecting bad weather. It rained off and on all morning–nothing unusual there–and I got sprinkled on a bit when I walked to and from the gym (and yes, that’s twice this week and I am doing quite well with this so far, and I’m still enjoying the way my muscles feel), and then as I was getting ready for work and a conference call, a nasty thunderstorm rolled in. I got out of the shower and as I was getting dressed, I heard this weird clicking sound. Puzzled, I walked over to one of the bedroom windows and saw little white pellets bouncing off the windows, the fence, and the crepe myrtles. Hail? It’s hailing in New Orleans? But it’s seventy degrees outside! 

That’s correct, it was seventy degrees and hailing.

Plagues of Egypt, anyone?

It’s also rained heavily all night overnight here in New Orleans; it’s still dark outside and sprinkling.  I slept very well–always sleep well during rainstorms–and certainly didn’t want to get up this morning. Working out does, apparently, help with sleep, and I’ve greatly enjoyed the kind of restful sleep I’ve been having this entire week, which is very lovely. It’s also lovely to be working out for the right reasons again; for so long I was working out for all the wrong reasons; making it about aesthetics and how I looked (and enjoying the kind of attention I was getting for having a worked out physique) rather than doing it because of how it made me feel and to be healthier. Now that I’m older, and am on blood pressure medication and another daily pill for cholesterol–well, I should have forced my old fat ass back into the gym before I had to go on both. But we’ll see now what, if any, difference regular working out makes to those–although it will also be hard to tell whether it’s the result of the workouts or the drugs I have to take. Curious.

We watched another episode of Sex Education, and I have to say, the show is really quite revolutionary and clever, while also being well-acted and well-written. As I said the other day, each episode is basically a lesson is actual sexuality; yesterday’s was one in which a group of the teenage girls, not friends, being forced to come up with what they have in common as women: the answer inevitably ended up being sexually assaulted in some way, or as one of them told their teacher as they walked out, “unsolicited penises.” And sadly, they did indeed bond over their shared trauma. What a horribly sad statement about what it’s like to be a woman–or a teenaged girl–in these modern times.

Today is a long day at the office, and once I’m fully awake I have some emails to answer and some bills to pay; as well as trying to assemble everything I need for my taxes so i can get them off to the accountant and filed and out of the way. I need to get to work on the Secret Project again–I didn’t even open the file yesterday–and I also need to get started on my Sherlock story. I’m just going to get it started and try to get the rough draft sorted; I can always fix things later, after all, and as I often say, it’s much easier to edit something then it is to write it. But at the moment I’m still feeling a bit groggy and not quite awake yet–still on the first cup of coffee–and so that will have to be later in the day at some point.

I also finished reading Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, which I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend. My next non-fiction history read about New Orleans will be Jason berry’s City of a Million Dreams: A History of New Orleans at Year 300, which should be quite fun. I’ve made lots of notes from the Campanella; I’m sure there will be plenty of notes to be made from the Berry. I certainly am enjoying finally learning the true history of my home, and it is certainly inspiring me to write more historical fictions about New Orleans.

And on that note, the coffee is starting to kick into gear, so I am heading back into the spice mines until it’s time to head into the office. There’s also a lull in the rain–which undoubtedly is helping me wake up–but it’s definitely one of those days where you’d rather just stay in bed and read–which actually sounds lovely; if it weren’t for the coffee situation, I should probably do that more in the mornings, you know?

Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader!

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Blue

So, Saints & Sinners and the Tennessee Williams Festival were a Jeopardy clue on Friday night; how fricking cool is that? I didn’t see it myself–I was cleaning–but any number of people tagged me on Facebook or on Twitter, so I got to see it, which is cool. The Tennessee Williams Festival has been a clue before, but I think this is the first time Saints & Sinners was–and it’s a queer/LGBTQ festival, so even more cool. Way to go, Jeopardy! There’s a reason why you’ve always been my favorite game show!

Hold up your hand if you didn’t think I’d get everything done yesterday that I’d planned. But it was still a good day, and I wrote some new stuff for the first time in a while. I have these horrible stagnant times, when I don’t get any writing done–and as we’ve already established, I always have to force myself to do it (despite loving doing it) and then when I’ve got my writing for the day finished, I wonder why I have to make myself do something I love–and those stagnant times always make me worry that I’ve lost the spark, the desire, to do it; that this time is the time I won’t be able to get back into it and do it. I worked on the Secret Project for a while yesterday, basically completely rewrote everything I wrote to begin with, and moved onto from the first scene to the next scene, which was also quite lovely.

I did get some organizing done–there’s more to be done today; my iCloud drive is so ridiculously disorganized that it’s almost impossible to use, and I probably should back everything up yet again–and some of the filing; I should be able to get more done this morning before I dive back into the Secret Project. I am also planning on heading to the gym for the first time in a very long time (I prefer not to think about just how long that time has been, frankly), which is my first move in my attempt to live a healthier, better organized, better life. I already am thinking of excuses to get out of going, frankly–which is par for the course, as always–but as long as I don’t tie myself to any particular time table, I should be good. I guess the Super Bowl is also tonight, but I don’t really care about either team–the 49ers or the Chiefs–though I suppose if I had to pick one I’d pick the Chiefs, and that’s mainly because they haven’t won a Super Bowl in forever and I think Kansas City could use the boost. We’ll probably spend the evening getting caught up on shows we watch. We still haven’t finished watching Messiah, are way behind on Dare Me, haven’t started the last season of Schitt’s Creek, and so on.

We haven’t even started HBO’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Outsider, which is getting rave reviews. Who would have ever guessed The Hogan Family’s Jason Bateman would become one of our finest actors/directors/writers for television? I really can’t wait for Ozark to come back.

I also finally finished and published my blog post about Victoria Holt’s Kirkland Revels, part of my Reread Project; I still need to do The Talented Mr. Ripley–it’s started, but I need to finish it.

I am resisting the urge to read Dorothy B. Hughes’ The So Blue Marble next; I need to start reading Tracy Clark’s canon so I can interview her for Sisters; but I also have to read Lori Rader-Day’s The Lucky One for the panel I’m moderating this year at the Jeopardy clue Tennessee Williams Festival late next month. Decisions, decisions. Probably the smart thing to do is read Tracy Clark’s first book next, then Lori’s, and then back to Tracy again for her second book.

I’ve also reached the final section of Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, which I am looking forward to finally finishing this month. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the book, which is interesting, well-written, and incredibly informative; it’s going to remain on my desk as an important reference guide for any future New Orleans writing I do–which reminds me, I’ve got to start that Sherlock Holmes story–and probably when I finish the Campanella I’ll probably move on to Jason Berry’s City of a Million Dreams: A History of New Orleans at Age 300. 

The plan is to get this work on the Secret Project finished this week, get started on the Sherlock story, and then get back to Bury Me in Shadows. I’d like to get Shadows turned in by the end of March, get back to the Kansas book–maybe with some serious focus I can get that finished and turned in by the end of May, and then I can get to work on Chlorine. I’d like to have the first draft of Chlorine finished by the end of summer.

Must stay organized, and must stay focused.

I also finished reading Dorothy B. Hughes’ Dread Journey yesterday.

dread journey

“I’m afraid.”

She had spoken aloud. She hadn’t meant to; she hadn’t wanted those words to come up from her throat to her lips. She hadn’t meant to think them, much less speak them. She didn’t want Gratia to have heard them.

But across the room the girl lifted her eyes from her book.

“What did you say?” she queried.

Dorothy B. Hughes is one of the more unjustly forgotten women writers of the mid to later twentieth century; fortunately Sarah Weinman worked–and has continued to work–tirelessly to bring this women back into the public eye. She wrote the introduction to Dread Journey, and in it she names Hughes as her favorite crime writer of all time. She’s not wrong, frankly; Sarah and my friend Margery are both huge fans of Hughes, and if not for them–and Megan Abbott–I may not have ever started reading Hughes, and for that I shall always be grateful to them. In a Lonely Place and The Expendable Man are both extraordinary; I think, frankly, The Expendable Man should be taught; it’s on my list for the Reread Project, for later in the year. Dread Journey is yet another masterwork by Hughes; I cannot wait to dig my teeth into more of her work.

Dread Journey takes place entirely on a train; the Chief, making its regular run from Los Angeles to Chicago–and you know, at some point, someone really needs to do a book or lengthy essay about crime novels and trains; not only did Hughes write one, but Christie wrote two (the very well known Murder on the Orient Express and the lesser known The Mystery of the Blue Train; as well as others that revolved around trains, like 4:50 from Paddington–called What Mrs. McGillicudy Saw! in the US) and of course, Graham Greene’s wonderful Orient Express comes to mind as well. Trains were part and parcel of the American experience. Trains made travel and connecting the massive distances across this continent much easier in the time before air travel became more commonplace and everyone wasn’t convinced they needed a car; there’s a certain nostalgic romantic element to train travel now, probably a result of these novels. I know that year we lived in Washington, we loved taking the train to Philadelphia and New York, even on to Boston; I’ve always, as I said the other day, wanted to write a book or a story called Murder on the Acela Express, and perhaps someday I will–even though the Acela is more of a commuter train without compartments. One of these days I want to take the City of New Orleans on its twenty-four hour ride to Chicago; it just seems like a lovely thing to do and the reading time! Oh, the reading time.

Anyway, the premise behind Dread Journey revolves around the dysfunctional and borderline abusive relationship between Viv Spender, a self-made Hollywood producer and studio head, and Kitten Agnew, a woman he discovered, became obsessed with, and groomed into a major star–America’s sweetheart, the girl next door. There is a huge difference between Kitten’s public image and who she is–a hard as nails fighter who won’t let go of her stardom in the face of Gratia Shawn, his new obsession, and whom he has decided will replace Kitten as the star of his dream project in the role of Clavdia Chauchat. But Kitten has a contract and isn’t giving up without a fight–and they, along with Viv’s longtime secretary Mike Dana, and several other characters–a journalist returning from the Far East, who drowns his memories of the atrocities and horrors he saw there in alcohol; a snippy, gossipy bandleader; a failed screenwriter returning to New York embittered by his failure; and of course, the car attendant, a man of color named James Cobbett–a decent working man who witnesses almost everything that happens on the car. Will Viv go so far as to kill Kitten to get out of the contract he has signed with her? She’s threatening to sue if she doesn’t play Clavdia; and the tension mounts as the cat-and-mouse game between the two of them slowly draws everyone else in the railroad car in.

It’s a very short read, and a good one. I highly recommend it, and of course, Sarah Weinman’s opening essay is worth the cover price alone.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Sleeping Single in a Double Bed

I’m a little more tired this morning than I was yesterday morning, which is fine. Hopefully the coffee will do its daily trick and get my eyes further open and my brain more functional, because I have a very long day in front of me and I have, as always, a lot to get done. I did get quite a bit done yesterday–not quite enough, as ever–but I manage to get almost everything on my to-do list crossed off before getting started on writing a new one, but I only wrote one thing down and then I got it done, so I get to start over yet again this morning, Huzzah, I think?

I also see a lot of new emails that need to be answered at some point today as well. Heavy sigh.

It’s cold in the Lost Apartment again this morning, and the sun is beginning to rise in the east. The first news push I saw since sitting down at the computer indicates that the river is rising again. I wasn’t so aware that there was so much snow and rain upstream this year in the Midwest, or maybe a rising river every year in January is something we get to look forward to dealing with from now on; I don’t know. Water is the city’s natural and mortal enemy, and always has been since the French arrived 302 years ago and founded a settlement on a high bank of land between swampy bayous and the river. Reading all this New Orleans history as I’ve been doing lately–over the last year or so–has given me a truly deeper appreciation of the city, its people and culture, than I ever had before. Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street–which is now up the 1980’s, as tourism began to rise as one of the more important economic bases of the city–has been truly fascinating. A lot of the hotels and businesses and buildings, for example, that I thought had been there forever are a lot more recent than I would have ever dared imagine; even the Bourbon Orleans, which I had always believed was simply an old convent converted into a hotel, was actually built fairly recently; not much of the original convent is still there.

Kind of makes those stories about the hotel being haunted by former nuns and dead Civil War soldiers (the convent was used as a military hospital during that war) kind of suspect now, doesn’t it? I suppose ghosts could haunt a location rather than an actual building; could remain to haunt the newer construction as well as the old.

I still have to write that historical Sherlock Holmes story as well. The French Quarter, in the time I would be writing about, wasn’t the Quarter it is today; it was more rundown in the early twentieth century, and was primarily home to a lot of Italian/Sicilian immigrants, who worked primarily on the docks or in the factories (yes, there were factories in the French Quarter) and most locals regarded the Quarter as barely more than a slum and a rough part of town–not much has really changed in that opinion, frankly, other than no one thinks of it as a slum these days, but locals tend to think of the Quarter as a rough part of town and Bourbon Street as a place primarily targeted for tourists, other than, of course, Galatoire’s, Arnaud’s, and Antoine’s.

I also need to get back to work on the Secret Project, which I had hoped to do last night yet was too tired to bother with when I got home from work late last night. I did managed to cook some chicken breasts for snacking and to take for lunch as well as do the dishes and run the dishwasher, but other than that I was pretty much lying in my reclining chair with Scooter asleep in my lap as I let Youtube do as it wished by allowing it to run unabated or unstopped once I clicked on a Carpenters video–I’ve been listening to the Carpenters a lot lately; consistently amazed at the remarkably pure quality of Karen Carpenter’s voice–which inevitably leads to thinking about how her remarkable, extraordinary talent was essentially destroyed by an eating disorder than killed her, very young; I believe that Karen Carpenter was the first very public person to die from anorexia nervosa, and that death brought a lot of attention to eating disorders, which have never really been out of the public consciousness since she died.

It’s sad to think about all the great music she could have made had she lived longer.

Okay, this morning’s coffee is kicking in, so it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

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Old Fashioned Love

Saturday and football is completely over–at least for me, thank you, Saints–until September (or late August, it seems to start earlier and earlier every year), so Saturday spreads out before me like an unpainted canvas, waiting for me to add colors and depth and so forth.

How fucking poetic.

But I woke up without the alarm at just before seven this morning, so hopefully that means I’ve trained myself to get up at that time now so it won’t be an issue going forward. During my most productive periods, I always got up around seven in the morning to accomplish things before going into the office; I can still get things done at night, of course, after work, but now I need the extra time and hopefully I will be able to continue on this productive path. I got up this morning and read through a gift from Paul he left on my desk–a commemorative magazine about the LSU season, the first of many I imagine I’ll be getting over the course of the next few weeks/months–and then finished reading the new Elizabeth Little novel, Pretty as a Picture, which I really loved, and now here I am at my desk, writing my blog and getting ready to start cleaning up this disgrace of an office area before running my usual Saturday errands–mail, cat food from the vet, groceries–and hopefully, getting some writing done. I also still need to write blogs about three books I’ve read recently: the reread of Victoria Holt’s Kirkland Revels, the reread of The Talented Mr. Ripley, and of course, the new Elizabeth Little.

I also have to decide what I am going to read next–something from the Diversity Project, perhaps, or possibly the Reread Project? Or maybe something new from the TBR pile? I do have that new edition of Dorothy B. Hughes’ Dread Journey…and one can never go wrong with Hughes. Added plus: an intro by the divine Sarah Weinman. Or perhaps something non-fiction? Decisions, decisions, decisions, and such a wealth of treasures to choose from, as well. I’m almost finished with Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, which is fantastic–and have bookmarked lots of pages for further investigation or ideas for writing other stories, and books. I need to get to work on the secret project, and I also need to get started on a short story I promised that is due on March 31st. And there is ever so much filing that needs to be done–I’ve decided to start on a massive new project that is far overdue; my file cabinet, in which over the years I’ve simply lazily tossed files into without any sense of organization or order, and always push off because, of course, it would take forever. But yesterday at the office I also worked on a filing project I’ve been avoiding for weeks, and it was ever so satisfying.

I’ll never completely understand my reluctance and hesitation about doing things I actually enjoy and find satisfying: organizing, filing, writing, going to the gym. Why is it always an effort for me to do things I enjoy? Why won’t I ever actually, you know, do those things? And without fail, every time I do, when I am finished I feel terrific and feel a sense of accomplishment which is eminently satisfying.

I really don’t get it. Perhaps I should start seeing a therapist again.

Although in fairness, I did get tired of my old therapist looking at me with his eyes wide open and his jaw dropped.

So many things I really need to be working on…but I am definitely leaning towards reading the Hughes next, and I think once I’m finished with Bourbon Street I’ll read John Shelton Reed’s Dixie Bohemia next. I really do enjoy learning about New Orleans history–and by extension, Louisiana’s–and it also inspires me. I’ve made so many notes for potential short stories and novels, which, if I’m lucky, maybe someday I’ll have the time to write to actually turn about ten percent of those ideas into a finished, publishable product.

And on that note, I should probably head back into the mines for spice. Have a lovely Saturday, everyone.

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On My Knees

Thursday morning in New Orleans, and it looks to have rained overnight–which might account for my deep and restful sleep last night. It’s been cold since I returned to New Orleans on Sunday evening–I wore not only a T-shirt under my sweaters to work this week but also tights under my jeans. When I got home from work late yesterday afternoon it was still bitterly cold; but the overnight rain was expected to warm things up a bit. It’s not as cold in the Lost Apartment as it was last night when I went to bed, but it’s still not balmy. Rain is forecast for most of the day today, but it’s not raining now, so we’ll just have to see how that all works out. I don’t get off work until late this evening–eight-ish–but Thursday are generally (knocks wood) slower than the other days of the week. Not sure why that is, but there you have it.

I’ve not written much this week. I’m still a bit overwhelmed by my new responsibilities and trying to get caught up on everything I need to get caught up on for Mystery Writers of America; I’ve been alternating between being excited and being terrified, off and on, for the last few days. I have made some notes, and the secret project I’ve been working on (and wanted to get finished this week) has been taking shape in my head. Now I just need to find some time to actually sit down and start committing it all to paper (a Word document, actually, but you know what I mean). I’ve also had another Scotty book taking shape in my head over the last week or so, and its not the one I thought I was going to write next. It’s a different one; an idea about the gentrification of the city post-Katrina that I’ve been calling Bywater Bohemia Bougie in my head all this time. It’s a bit of a mouthful–well aware of that–but it does fit the usual schematic of Scotty titles. I have several ideas about what the book should cover, and now I just have to figure out how to pull all those disparate thoughts and ideas all together in a cohesive story.

I am also still reading Bourbon Street, and am now to the 1960’s, and the monstrous Jim Garrison years as district attorney, as Bourbon Street began to shift from what it was before to what it is now, and as tourism slowly began to overtake everything else as the leading industry for the city. I can’t recommend this book enough, Constant Reader; Richard Campanella is fantastic, and his writing makes a terrific subject even more enjoyable.

We’re nearly finished watching Messiah, which we are still enjoying, and also started watching the second season of Sex Education, which is just as funny and entertaining and charming as the first season was–I do recommend it, and Gillian Anderson is fantastic as the main character Owen’s mother, a sex therapist. The entire first episode is about an outbreak of chlamydia at the high school–which isn’t nearly as bad as people think it actually is because none of them actually know how chlamydia is transferred. (when it is first mentioned as being airborne, I literally said out loud No it isn’t. The day job–no matter what, it’s always there in the back of my mind) We laughed out loud multiple times, and that of course means the show is a winner in our book.

It’s also going to be a little strange and weird this weekend to not have any football to watch–but at the same time, it frees up a lot of time for me to write, clean, plan and do all those things–including read–that I don’t get done during football season. Of course the US Figure Skating Championships are this weekend, so…yeah, there’s that, too. Heavy sigh.

I also took some time last night to read another fifty pages of Elizabeth Little’s fantastic new novel, Pretty as a Picture, and I am loving it. Like all the best writers, reading Liz makes me want to be a better writer and also inspires stories of my own that I want to write–which always is an indicator, to me, that the author is spectacular at what they do. If you’ve not read her first, Dear Daughter, do so–you won’t be sorry, and then you’ll then have the exquisite pleasure of reading Pretty as a Picture when it is finally released into the wild.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely morning, Constant Reader.

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Two More Bottles of Wine

The weather, apparently, is going to be terrifying today.

I’d planned to run errands, but with the terrible forecast I think it’s best if I stay at home today and ride out the stormy weather. Hail? Flash flooding? Tornadoes? YIKES! And it does look foul out there outside my windows–an eerie gray light and pouring rain, grayish-dark clouds covering the sky. The gutter that drains the back and side yards, running alongside the walk, is full and overflowing; but water isn’t cascading off the house and through the drain pipes. So, yeah, probably best not to go outside.

Okay, that thunder was loud and long. Definitely not going anywhere today.

It’s okay, though; I have plenty to keep me occupied. There’s lots of writing to be done and laundry to put through its cleansing paces; I have reading to do and some other things I have to get taken care of over the course of this lovely time away from the office. I’m starting to get busier, which means I need to guard my time more jealously, budget it accordingly, and perhaps most exciting of all, start keeping lists again.

That gives me such a charge, you have no idea.

I am one of those sick and twisted individuals who gets more done the more he has to do; the luxury of free time lends itself to more leisure, I find–as well as a reluctance to leave the inertia behind. I had a lovely time last weekend, listening to music all day Saturday while doing some important catching up on lo those many things I always tend to let slide and keep on sliding; a body at rest tends to stay at rest–and there’s nothing I love more than proving just how true that axiom actually is. It’s amazing–even this morning, I woke up just before eight but the bed was so comfortable and warm and relaxing, I didn’t want to get out of it. Scooter climbed up on me shortly afterwards and fell asleep while purring, and of course that put me right back to sleep. But I am awake now, not groggy in the least, and confident that now that my body is in motion it will stay in motion. Huzzah!

I continue to read Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, and we are now up to the 1950’s. I’m really enjoying my sojourns into New Orleans’ past; these histories are helping me get a better understanding of my home city, which I love more than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. It’s hard to explain sometimes to people, but New Orleans is home more than anywhere; I just have always felt welcomed and a part of the city’s fabric, connected in a way I never did anywhere else–and it’s quite frankly shameful that it’s taken me so long to start studying New Orleans history. They are also helping me with my first real foray into writing historical fiction; I did write “The Weight of a Feather,” which was set loosely in the early 1950’s, but “The Affair of the Purloined Rentboy,” my attempt at writing in the Sherlock Holmes canon, is definitely taking me back into a time I am completely unfamiliar with; recreating the New Orleans of November, 1914 is going to be one of the more difficult things I’ve ever done–which makes it all the more exciting, quite frankly.

We watched another episode of Messiah last night, and I have to say, this show is incredible. I can’t recommend it enough. We’re three episodes in, and for me, one of the best indicators of how good a show is how easy it is to get lost in the story; that when the credits start rolling it comes as a shock because it doesn’t seem like you’ve been watching for an hour. That’s how every episode of Messiah has been so far; and as I’ve said before, there’s nothing quite so fascinating to me as religion and religious history. Given how evangelical Christianity is trying to turn our country into a theocracy, and has been for quite some time (the separation of church and state in this country has always been an ideal we never have quite reached), it’s always interesting to me to think about the return of Jesus as supposedly prophesied in the Bible (I’ve never been convinced that Revelations is anything other than the ravings of a madmen rather than actual prophecy–but all of the end times/Rapture stuff traces back to that particular book of the Bible; as well as to The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey, a huge bestseller back in the 1970’s and, in my opinion, the beginning of all the Rapture/end times stuff; but that’s for another blog post after I reread the Lindsey book.) and how modern day evangelicals, with their Prosperity Gospel and other nonsense would react–a friend and I refer to the Jesus they worship as “Republican Armani Jesus,” or RAJ for short; that’s why Messiah is so interesting to me. It’s also remarkably well-done.

LSU’s football team arrived in New Orleans last night, which I watched on various social media feeds. It was kind of cool seeing how people lined up on the highway to hold up signs and flags and cheer for the team on their way to New Orleans from Baton Rouge, and there was a mob scene at the hotel on Canal Street when the busses finally pulled in. The route through Baton Rouge was also clogged with fans cheering them on–and you can actually feel the electricity in the air here yesterday. I put in an eight hour day at the office yesterday, and shockingly enough, despite the fact that I had to drive through the Quarter and the CBD at five thirty on a Friday night–the worst day and time for traffic of the week, plus the team was arriving around that time–it only took me a little over twenty minutes to navigate the crowded streets and traffic.

We do love our football teams down here in the bayou country.

Monday is going to be insane.

 But in the best kind of way, really.

Hmm, there’s a lull in the storm. It’s eerily still outside; no wind, no rain, and just really gray and weird. I don’t see our outdoor kitties–we have a new addition; an orange-and-white tuxedo kitty we’ve dubbed Simba. He’s really sweet, and he and Tiger seem to have a wary frenemy relationship. Simba is far too friendly and affectionate to be feral; I don’t know if he’s someone’s cat in the neighborhood that they let roam free, or if he belonged to the asshole college students next door who recently moved away and they left him behind–which really pisses me off. Simba’s ear is also not clipped, so at some point we’re going to need to catch him and take him in to see if he is chipped. I hope, if he is abandoned, he and Tiger are holed up safely under the house or somewhere out of this rain.

It would be so easy for me to become a crazy cat lady.

I think it’s about to start raining again; there was some severe thunder just now.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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Every Time Two Fools Collide

So I finally went back to work on the book last night when I got home from the office. Huzzah! I was beginning to think I never would work on the damned thing again, but maybe there is something to this “arbitrary date chosen by Julius Caesar to start the new year” thing, after all. I started writing two new short stories, I got back to work on the book–pretty amazing, I have to say, especially taking into consideration that I’ve been such a fucking slug about writing for quite some time now.

Huzzah for the end of that nonsense!

Whether it actually means something remains to be seen, of course, but at least I also started the next chapter as well. It felt good to be writing again, and it felt really good to be making this manuscript better. It’s been so long since I last worked on it that I am going to have to go back to my notes and review them again; but that’s fine. At least I have the notes, you know, and that puts me ahead in a way–look, I’ll take these little victories where I can, thank you very much.

It does seem as though the RWA mess has calmed somewhat on Twitter, and what the future holds for the organization remains to be seen; it’s always sad to see an organization tear itself apart in this way, especially when the real root cause of the whole mess is racism. Sorry, Nice White Ladies, but we’re not going back to the 1950’s–the people of color aren’t going back to the back of the bus and the queers aren’t going back into the closet. And inevitably, there’s going to be issues any independent audit turns up; aren’t there always? I can only theorize the paid staff’s been colluding with the people masterminding this insidious leadership coup, and there are probably irregularities that will turn up in their books once the inevitable independent audit shows up. There’s something terribly rotten at the core of that organization, and it’s just a matter of time before it gets dragged out into the light and exposed.

I am still reading Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, and I’ve now reached the period of time–the 1950’s through the 1960’s–where the street truly earned its name and reputation as a strip for sinning. As always, ideas are flooding through my mind for new stories and perhaps a new series; I think the story I originally started writing a while back, “The Blues Before Dawn”, might actually work better as a short (70k-ish) novel set in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s rather than the WWI/Storyville era I was thinking about setting it…and also makes me wonder about my Sherlock Holmes story; perhaps moving it to a more modern era might be better? But I must get these other two manuscripts finished before I really even start thinking about other novels–and let’s face it, Chlorine needs to be the next novel I write anyway. I wrote a first draft of the first chapter a few months back, and it turned out better than I’d thought it might; and last night, as we watched John Mulaney stand-up comic specials on Netflix, the second chapter came to me, almost fully formed. It’s lovely when that sort of thing actually happens, you know–it’s so organic and I love it, it makes me feel like a real writer when it does–and it doesn’t really seem to happen all that often.

Although I probably should be spending all this time researching for Chlorine while I finish writing these other two books, shouldn’t I?

I don’t have a timetable for finishing Bury Me in Shadows or the final revision of the Kansas book, either. I probably should set one–although I’ve been doing that for the last year and it never seems to motivate me to get the work done.

OH! I also realized the other day when I was listing my favorite reads of 2019 I forgot two: The Better Sister by Alafair Burke and The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. Both are frigging fantastic, and you need to read them sooner rather later. Get on it. Don’t make me come over there, because I will.

Tonight after work is the office holiday party, so I’ll be stopping there on my way home from work and probably then proceeding to Rouses so I won’t have to leave the house all weekend. Fingers crossed, at any rate.

I also have some errands to run on my way into the office today. It rained last night–everything is slick and shiny and dripping outside my windows this morning–and I suspect the temperature went south overnight as well; it’s very cold in the Lost Apartment this morning. I always forget how bipolar the weather in southeastern Louisiana is in the winter–it was warm and muggy yesterday. I stand corrected–it’s 62 with a high of 71 forecast for the day, so it’s clearly just cold here inside. Sigh, New Orleans.

I’m still rereading both The Talented Mr. Ripley and Kirkland Revels  as well; once I finish those rereads (and blogs) I’ll go on to my annual reread of Rebecca, I think, and then it’ll be time to read some new things from my TBR pile. The new Elizabeth Little ARC has been taunting me from the top of the TBR pile since I received it (read me, read me, come on and read me, you bitch!), and I was actually thinking about taking it with me as one of my “to reads” for the trip to New York; there will be lots of airport/airplane time involved, after all, and there’s no better time to read then when you’re traveling.

And on that note, I have some laundry to fold before I get ready for work. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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Santa Baby

And here we are, Wednesday already, and Christmas a mere week away.

I avoided a horrible Christmas blunder yesterday, so I have to give a shout out to Overstock.com for handling the problem quickly and efficiently and effectively saving Christmas.

Okay, that may be overstated a little, but STILL.

The last time I’d ordered from them I was still working at the office on Frenchmen Street, so I had whatever it was I ordered delivered there. Being an idiot–my default is always to have things shipped to my postal service, alwaysI didn’t bother to check when ordering, and it wasn’t until yesterday morning that I looked at the confirmation emails to verify the shipping. Overstock was able to help me get that corrected almost immediately. So, huzzah!  A Christmas miracle!

I was terribly tired yesterday and fairly unable to focus most of the day because of it, so no writing was done. When I got home last night–in the cold–I simply collapsed into my easy chair, covered myself with a blanket, and let Scooter curl up on me for even more warmth. I went to bed early and slept very well. I still woke up a couple of times in the night, but was able to easily return to the arms of Morpheus.

But today I am rested. I do have to work all day, as opposed to a half-day as is per usual on Wednesdays because I had to take last Friday off, tonight I’ll be doing data entry until it’s time to come home. And tonight hopefully I’ll be able to get some writing done. I really want to get this manuscript out of my hair by the end of the year. I’m not exactly sure how I am going to manage that–there’s not much time left in the year, after all, and I am notoriously lazy–but it would be great if that could happen. I think we’re going to go see The Rise of Skywalker this weekend; I’d like to go Saturday afternoon if we can get tickets; I’ll be trying to order them on-line later today. I can’t believe the Skywalker series of Star Wars films are coming to an end, but if Rogue One and The Mandalorian are examples of what can be done without the Skywalkers, count me all the way in.

I am still reading Laura Benedict’s The Stranger Inside, but the fact it’s taking me so long to read it should not be counted against it–it’s quite excellent. I simply got sidetracked by the Watchmen graphic novel, Disney Plus, and a lack of time to read more. I am also still working my way through Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, and we are finally at the point where the Vieux Carre Commission is being created and empowered to protect the historic value and integrity of the Quarter. New Orleans history is so fascinating and entertaining–and delightfully dark. I also want to reread Chris Wiltz’s fantastic The Last Madam, about Norma Wallace–who was, indeed, the “last madam.”

I had an idea a while back for a noir set in the Quarter–don’t I always?–and maybe noir is the wrong term; a pulp? There’s a difference, I suppose, between pulp fiction and noir; this would probably be a pulp more than a noir. Anyway, during the height of the “girl” title crime novel craze (not that it’s gone away), I made a joke that I wanted to write a book called Girls Girls Girls–after all, multiple “girls” in the title is surely better than just one? And while it started as a joke, like almost always, as I thought about it more, the more an idea for a book started to come to me; the strip clubs in the Quarter were being raided around this time–for drugs, prostitution, underage girls, etc.–and there was yet another crackdown on vice down in the Quarter; this happens, as I’ve learned through reading city history, periodically. (Notorious district attorney Jim Garrison, lionized by Oliver Stone in JFK despite the fact he was a headline-hunting power-mad Fascist who used his office to avenge political and personal slights, also led one of these campaigns back in the 1960s–clean up the Quarter!) And a germ of an idea started forming, about a female vice cop sent undercover to investigate a strip club–and the following descent into violence and darkness. I doubt, however, that the NOPD would ever ask one of its own to go undercover as a stripper; but she could certainly be a shot girl. The other day I started writing a short story–nothing much, just some fragments of sentences and paragraphs and general ideas and so forth–called “Shot Girl”; I also realized that this could be my introduction to the character who would eventually be the center of Girls Girls Girls. 

Just a thought, anyway.

And on that note, I am going to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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