The Ghost of Myself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Under the Bridge

 Sunday morning, and I must confess that other than doing the errands and some slight cleaning yesterday, I fear the day was mostly a bust for getting things done. But that’s fine; I am off today and tomorrow as well–tomorrow should include both the gym and a Costco run–and I intend to get a lot of writing done today. The kitchen and living room are still in need of some straightening as well, and I assume that I shall get to that as I pass the day. I was thinking about going to the gym this morning, but I think I shall go tomorrow instead, and then have a Monday-Wednesday-Friday workout schedule to try to stick to; with perhaps going in on the weekends simply to stretch and do cardio. I have now discovered a new show to watch for cardio–The Musketeers, and there’s at least three seasons, I believe–which will makes things ever so much easier. I certainly did a lot of cardio while I was watching and enjoying Black Sails, so The Musketeers might just do the trick. (I had high hopes for Netflix’ Troy: The Fall of a City, but it was so boring I had to give up. HOW DO YOU MAKE THE TROJAN WAR BORING?)

While I was goofing off yesterday and watching things on Amazon/Netflix/Hulu/Youtube–yes, I know–I was also reading through Bertrand Russell’s brilliant and informative The History of Western Philosophy, and I came across this:

The last dynastic pope was Benedict IX, elected in 1032, and said to have been only twelve years old at the time. He was the son of Alberic of Tusculum, whom we have already met in connection with Abbot Odo. As he grew older, he became more and more debauched, and shocked even the Romans. At last his wickedness reached such a pitch that he decided to resign the papacy in order to marry. He sold it to his godfather, who became Gregory VI.

I do find it interesting that Russell chose to word it that way: that the height of his wickedness was his decision to resign and marry.

This led me into an Internet wormhole, looking up Benedict IX, the dynastic papacy, and the Tusculan popes. As you know, Constant Reader, history always has fascinated me; I would love one day to write historical fiction, as there are so many historical figures that fascinate me, from Catherine de Medici to Cardinal Richelieu to the Byzantine empress Irene to now, Benedict IX; and the century before him, where a woman named Marozia had enormous influence not only over the papacy but on who was elected pope (Marozia, in fact, founded the dynasty of popes called the Tusculans; which concluded with Benedict.) The Fourth Crusade, which wound up sacking Constantinople, also interests me, as do the histories of Venice and Constantinople.

And one can never go wrong with the Borgias and the Medici.

Anyway, one of the debaucheries of Benedict IX was sodomy, and it appears that the historical record holds that he was homosexual; how can I not be fascinated by a gay Pope, the way I am interested in Louis XIV’s gay brother Philippe duc d’Orleans?

So, of course I am making notes for a historical fiction novel called Benedictine, the tale of the gay pope.

Am I nothing if not predictable.

Next up in Florida Happens is Eleanor Cawood Jones’ “All Accounted For at the Hooray for Hollywood Motel”.

Eleanor Cawood Jones began her writing career in elementary school, using a #2 pencil to craft short stories based around the imaginary lives of her stuffed animal collection. While in college at Virginia Tech, she got her first paid writing job as a reporter with the Kingsport Times-News in Kingsport, Tenn., and never looked back. Eleanor now lives in Northern Virginia and is a marketing director and freelance copywriter while working on more stories as well as her upcoming mystery novel series. She’s an avid reader, people watcher, traveler, political news junkie, and remodeling show addict. She spends her spare time telling people how to pronounce Cawood (Kay’-wood).

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Mona, lingering over a third cup of coffee, flipped through her collection of vintage postcards while the all-consuming sound of crunching cereal across the table grated increasingly on her nerves.

She took a sip of lukewarm coffee, gritted her teeth, and reminded herself of her husband’s many good qualities—of which turning mealtime into crunchtime was not one. Things were easier when she had to dash off her to accounting job. In those days, there was never time for another cup of coffee, much less prolonged crunching noises.

“Rodney!”

Rodney looked up from the Racing Times. “Mmmm?” At least he wasn’t speaking with his mouth full.

“I wonder if this hotel is still around?” She held up a ’50s postcard with a modestly clad bathing beauty posing in front of a diamond-shaped, brightly painted sign advertising the Hooray for Hollywood Motel. In the photo, an appealing, pink-painted building featuring a bright blue swimming pool practically beckoned vacationers. A single story structure in a horseshoe shape provided easy access to drive in and unload luggage. The fine print mentioned another pool in the back of the motel as well, as well as an onsite restaurant. Nothing about ocean front, but Mona knew the area well enough to know the motel would be right between the coastal road A1A and highway 95 in the heart of Hollywood, Florida.

Rodney perked up. “Alexa, phone number for Hooray for Hollywood Motel in Hollywood, Florida.”

Mona shuddered, once again, at having to share her vintage, mid-century kitchen with Alexa the interloper. But Rodney had retired two years before her and had spent his spare time acquiring gadgets, of which this conversational internet talkie was the latest.

This charming little story tells the tale of Mona and Rodney, a retired couple from Ohio who impulsively decide to take a trip to Florida, based on finding an old postcard. They’d honeymooned in Florida years earlier, and now that they’re retired, why not? But once they arrive at the vintage old motel, Mona finds herself helping out the crotchety owner, and soon Mona and Rodney are helping revitalize and bring the old motel back to life…until one morning they find the owner floating in the swimming pool.

And then things get interesting.

Very pleased to have this charming tale in Florida Happens, and now I must get back to the spice mines.

Crimson and Clover

Constant Reader knows I love history.

One of the (many) reasons I didn’t major in history was because I really couldn’t pick a period to specialize in; there are so many different periods of history that fascinate me. I talk on here a lot about the sixteenth century, but I am also interested in the seventeenth. I’ve actually been toying with a book idea set in that century for going on ten years now; periodically I will read some history of that century as background, but there is still so much I don’t know. I am reading Royal Renegades right now, about the children of Charles I of England–fascinating stuff; I knew basics about the English Civil War but not a lot–and the Stuarts of that period were particularly entwined with France. Charles I’s wife was Henrietta Maria, youngest sister of Louis XIII and aunt to Louis XIV; she fled to France for safety and some of the royal Stuart children also made it over there at some point. Henrietta Anna, Charles I’s youngest daughter, grew up at the French court; she eventually married Louis XIV’s brother, Philippe, the Duc d’Orleans.

And therein lies a tale.

My interest in Louis XIV–and Versailles–led me to discover that the Sun King’s younger brother, Philippe (whose existence, for that matter, completely invalidated the plot of Dumas’ The Man in the Iron Mask, although I’ve always loved that story), was, if not a gay man, then bisexual: he had children by both his first wife, Henriette Anna Stuart, and his second, Elisabeth Charlotte, Princess Palatine. In fact, Philippe is called the Father of Europe because all of European royalty in the nineteenth century were his descendants.

As a small child reading history, I picked up on the homosexuality that most historians always tried to gloss over (Edward II and Piers Gaveston; James I and first Robert Carr, later George Villiers; Richard the Lion-Hearted; Henri III of France; etc) but there was never any real attempt to gloss over Monsieur’s (Philippe was known throughout his life as Monsieur, after the death of his uncle Gaston, from whom he inherited that particular title as well as the title of duc d’Orleans) sexuality. He had a long term relationship with the Chevalier de Lorraine, which started when he was a young man and lasted until the Chevalier’s death. Monsieur’s first wife put up with it but didn’t care for it; his second wife didn’t care one way or the other.

The story goes that his mother, Anne of Austria, made him that way–which is, in modern times, a laughable thought (a domineering mother, etc etc etc)–by dressing him as a girl when he was a child, and continuing to do so after he was of an age to start wearing male clothing. Apparently, Queen Anne was concerned that Louis XIV and his younger brother would have an adversarial relationship the way her husband Louis XIII had with his own younger brother, Gaston. The troubled marriage of Louis XIII and his Spanish wife is also fascinating; they were married very young, she had two miscarriages, and he blamed her for the second one and they became estranged, not living together as man and wife for a very long time afterwards (the second miscarriage was around 1619, I believe; Louis XIV was not born until 1638 and his younger brother in 1640)–this estrangement between King and Queen–and the way George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham shamelessly flirted with Queen Anne when he came to Paris to negotiate the marriage of Charles I to Henrietta Maria–were the seeds from which Dumas also wrote The Three Musketeers.

Since so much time had passed (almost nineteen years) since Louis XIII last slept with Queen Anne, there were lots of rumors and talk that her two sons were not Louis XIII’s; there are many who believed Cardinal Richelieu fathered the boys with the Queen (fictionalized in Evelyn Anthony’s The Cardinal and the Queen); but there was never any question that the two boys were Bourbons. (Like the Hapsburgs with their genetic ‘jaw’, the Bourbon ‘nose’ was also relatively famous; both Louis and Philippe had the nose–but then that could simply mean that their father was a Bourbon rather than confirmation that Louis XIII was)

Monsieur often dressed as a woman for court functions, even as an adult; despite this proclivity he was a great soldier and commander of the French army–he was so successful in the field that his brother was jealous of his successes and often removed him from command.

His second wife was a diarist and a compulsive letter writer; her memoirs and letters are one of the best sources for information about life at the court of Louis XIV.

I’ve always been a little surprised that, while there are scores of biographies of Louis XIV (who, despite his incredible ego, wasn’t as great a king as he thought he was; he accomplished a lot but he also succeeded in planting the seeds for the French Revolution and creating the court system that also played a big part in the downfall of his dynasty. He also wasn’t successful militarily and diplomatically; his wars were expensive and ruinous–although all of Europe had to unite against him in order to beat him.) there are very few, if any, of Monsieur. I would think a biography of him would be something a gay historian would be interested in writing, because of the ability to look at his sexuality, his difference from the others at court, and how, as a prince, he was able to be himself–despite his own religious mania, Louis XIV never seemed to care about Monsieur’s proclivities–and on his own terms. Not to mention how incredibly difficult and strange it would have been to be the younger brother of the egomaniacal Sun King.

Was Monsieur gay? Bisexual? Transgender? Was this a result of his mother dressing him as a girl when he was young or was that just a coincidence?

As I said, the seventeenth century is interesting. And a lot was going on as well–the Thirty Years’ War was the last European war over religion; there were civil wars in both France and England; the colonizing of North America by the British, French, and Spanish truly got into full swing; and it was also the time, of course, of Cardinal Richelieu, the first great modern statesmen.

I hope to write this book someday. But in the meantime, I am having a great time doing the background research.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Voulez-Vous

A final push today and the essay will be finished. Huzzah! I also need to pack today and prepare for the trip; I will also have to go to bed early as I want to get an early start tomorrow. The drive is about eleven and a half hours, not including stops; with stops, figure maybe twelve to thirteen. (The times are estimates, of course; I’ve made the drive in less than eleven hours before and it’s also taken longer.) I also need to clean out my email inbox before I go; make sure there’s nothing left hanging that needs to be taken care of, and then drug myself early into a nice, restful sleep (I really do need to go to bed around ten tonight, which is a minimum of an hour and a half earlier than I usually do.) I stocked the larder yesterday, have paid all of the bills that fall due before I get paid again, and other than the essay and packing, I’m pretty much done. If I can knock the essay out early, I can then go ahead and do some straightening/cleaning (I cleaned out the refrigerator yesterday after getting groceries, in an attempt to get everything to fit in there).

I did finish reading Gore Vidal’s Empire yesterday, and frankly, wasn’t all that impressed with it. Oh, Vidal was a great writer; he knew how to use words and string them together, but at least in this book he didn’t create great characters; his characters are emotionless ciphers that don’t engage the reader. Vidal was an incredibly smart man, and a very great thinker; no one can take that away from him. But just because he was smart didn’t mean that he was right, you know? Often as I read the book, I would think to myself, man, he really hated this country; and then I would also find myself wondering, or is my reaction to his cynicism about this country a part of my own brainwashing?

As a child, going through public school, watching television with my parents, I was instilled with values and beliefs, some of which I have come to not only question but violently disagree with as I developed, through reading, my own experiences, and my own witnessing, my OWN set of core values and beliefs. Periodically I do catch myself thinking something automatically and not critically; and then I have to examine the automatic thought, figure out where is came from, and whether it actually has any value, any basis in reality and fact. Much of what I learned as a child has been, in fact, unlearned as an adult.

I’m not sure I agree with Vidal’s analysis of our country and its history. To be fair to Vidal, I’ve not read his other fictionalized histories: Burr, Lincoln, 1876, Washington D.C., Hollywood, and The Golden Age; nor have I read his essays and nonfiction on the subject. I’d like to read Burr at some point; just to get some better idea of Vidal’s thoughts about American history and what was true. Obviously, Aaron Burr is not a hero of American history, and yet Vidal seemed to think he was; I am curious to revisit this. I have always been taught that Burr was a villain; and in the interest of confronting things I was taught to decide on their veracity and validity, it may be necessary to reexamine that period of time in American history (which is why I am also interested in reading Howard Zinn’s “People’s Histories”).

Interesting thoughts on a Sunday morning with an essay to write about writing crime fiction in New Orleans.

But the book I have selected as my new bathroom read is a book called Royal Renegades by Linda Porter. It is not published in the US, only the UK; I ordered my copy through Book Depository, and I don’t recall how I heard about the book in the first place. The focus of the book, which is nonfiction history, is on the marriage of King Charles I and Henrietta Maria, and the lives of their children. I have some knowledge of Stuart England, but am not as well-informed as I would like to be, particularly on the 1620’s (which is a period of particular interest to me for a secret project, which I have been trying to research for years, without a great deal of success). This particular royal marriage–which, of course, led to disaster for the Stuart dynasty; with repercussions well into the eighteenth century, only ending with the final defeat of the Stuarts in the 1740’s–started a string of Stuart marriages in which Protestant English kings married Catholic princesses and made them Queens: two of their sons not only became king but also took Catholic wives; their second son even went so far as to convert (and this led to his deposal). Henrietta Maria was not only French, but her mother was Marie de Medici–yes, so her lineage went back to Italy and Florence and the amazing Medici family, reestablishing Medici blood into the French royal lineage after it died out in 1589. This was also the period of Cardinal Richelieu, one of my favorite historical statesmen; the Thirty Years’ War in Germany; and the further colonization of North America by the European powers. Anyway, this history begins with the first meeting between King Charles I and his French wife; she would be the last French-born Queen of England, and she was, indeed, the first French-born Queen in nearly two hundred years, after centuries where a French queen was the norm, not the exception. I’m looking forward to it.

Yesterday evening, after chores were completed and work was done for the day, Paul and I watched the European Figure Skating Championships on our NBC Sports Apple TV app. we are both huge fans of the two-time defending world champion French ice dancing team of Guillaume Cizeron and Gabriella Papadokis; their performances are breathtakingly beautiful.

And so are they; Guillaume also, apparently, works as a model.

You can see why. I’ve never understood why American male figure skaters and male gymnasts don’t get contracts as underwear models, at the very least; those bodies are en pointe.

And now, back to the spice mines.