Christmases When You Were Mine

And while technically Christmas season doesn’t really end until Twelfth Night (aka the twelfth day of Christmas), for most everyone it’s ended; the shredded wrapping paper trashed, ribbons and bows perhaps stashed aside for another use; boxes either broken down and recycled, or saved for use for the next time Christmas rolls around. Taking down decorations is something everyone seems to have their own traditions for; Paul and I left ours up our first year in New Orleans until the following July. I spent yesterday morning filing and organizing–discovering all kinds of treasures and ideas I’d allowed to fall by the wayside; a few months ago I counted how many short stories I had in progress and the truth is, I’d vastly undercounted, as I found ever so much more on hand yesterday morning. I found other research (some of it necessary, some of it interesting) that will come in enormously handy in the future. Perhaps people are correct when they talk about me being prolific; discovery of these stories and research certainly gives proof to that. (I must say, it was delightful to find myself looking at the files for “The Blues Before Dawn” and “One Night at Brandy’s Lounge” and “Waking the Saints” and “Malevolence” and “Getting Rid of Roger”–stories with great openings and potential that I had set aside and forgotten about as my nimble mind continued to leap around like a child’s that is in desperate need of Adderall. I also discovered folders for book ideas like Kansas Lonesome and Where the Boys Die and The Kissing Bridge…and that’s not even scratching the surface of the research that I found.)

I also discovered folders for Scotty books to come–Congo Square Conga and River Parish Rhumba and Hollywood South Hustle…and that’s on top of the three in the front of my mind, French Quarter Flambeaux and Lake Shore Limbo and Redneck Riviera Rhumba (oops, looks like I’ve got two rhumbas, and that just won’t do, will it?). I also found an idea for a Colin book that is completely different than the one i’ve been thinking about over the last year or so, and several other ideas. My word, I really need to harness my creativity, don’t I, and I really do need to go through the files every quarter or so, just so I can remember some of these fairly decent-and workable, usable–ideas.

So, we watched Wonder Woman 1984, and no, it wasn’t as good or as enjoyable as the original. I did think, a few times, “this would look amazing on a big screen”, but about twenty minutes or so into the film, I told myself, stop expecting it to make sense and just enjoy it without thinking, which is what they apparently want all of us to do, and so by shutting off my mind, I was able to enjoy it maybe a bit more than other people did. Was there problems with it? Absolutely: “of course i can fly a 1984 era fighter jet! So what if all my experience is with circa-1917 era prop planes?” And since when has a 1984 era fighter jet had the fuel capacity to fly to Cairo and back from Washington–and didn’t they steal the plane? And flying the jet through the fireworks? I actually said out loud, “is it safe to fly a jet through things that are exploding? And wouldn’t the jet have fucked up the fireworks?” Visually, that scene was quite beautiful–one of those “on a big screen” things–but…and while I also get the desire to have Chris Pine/Steve Trevor return, the way they did it made little to no sense, and I may have literally rolled my eyes when I realized what the central plot was going to be: an ancient stone that grants wishes? Really? I mean…if they were looking for a plot to symbolize that this was a super-hero movie from the 1980’s, putting the entire world in jeopardy is the kind of thing they used to do in those rare super-hero movies from the time–I’m looking at the Christopher Reeve Superman movies–but other than that, there really was very little that made this a “1984” movie–music, costumes, etc. It was a mess of a movie–I got bored from time to time–but it was a mildly entertaining diversion….afterward, inspired by seeing Lynda Carter, we watched the original pilot for her Wonder Woman series from the 1970’s, which completely leaned into the idea that it was a comic book television show, and went the old Batman route. I was also rather surprised to see what a star-studded cast they came up with for the pilot as well–Red Buttons, Carl Reiner, Stella Stevens, and Cloris Leachman, among others–and they even went with little caption boxes, like the comic books had–“Secret Nazi base”, “top secret US base”, etc. Never once in this movie is there a moment like the No Man’s Land scene in the original, which literally brought up goosebumps and tears to my eyes when I was sitting in the theater watching….it’s like they forgot all the things that made the first film so special and that the audience connected to, and kept the stuff people had problems with and then amplified them. About the most 1984 thing about the movie was the threat of nuclear annihilation–something that was very much on our minds back in the 1980’s, not to mention the Cold War, which was only glancingly mentioned and probably should have been the driving force of the movie. The heart of the first movie was the clearly delineated line between the evil of the Germans and the “goodness” of the Allies; the key to this movie–and had it actually been made in 1984–the villains should have been Soviets. By skating around the what was truly the most important ideological divide in the world at the time the film was set, they undermined the film itself.

After the Wonder Woman double feature, we watched Let Them All Talk, the Netflix movie starring Meryl Streep as an author and Dianne Weist and Candace Bergen as her two best friends from college, reuniting on an Atlantic crossing on the Queen Mary 2 so the Streep character can accept a distinguished literary award in England. While it had some very interesting things to say about writers and writing, it never really took off because the cast really never did anything more than sit around and talk about things, and there were no real emotional pay-offs. How can you have these three powerhouse actresses in the same film and then give them so very little to work with? They were all fine, but maybe a little flat–which has a lot to do with the direction and the script.

Needless to say, I did no writing over the last two days, and of course now realize I have fucked up completely the working time-line I had created in my head to see me through to the end of the book. Today I have to run errands, and I should go to the gym, but I also need to focus and get back to writing the book. In fact, probably once I’m finished here, I will take the laptop with me to my easy chair, grab my lap desk, and then start revising away. I’ve been waking up early these last couple of days, and while I am most pleased with the organizing and filing I managed to get done yesterday–all those stories in progress I’d forgotten, all those ideas moldering in the back of my mind–I do regret the laziness of not writing anything yesterday. But by the time I was finished with everything it was already mid-afternoon, and there really wasn’t much choice at that time. That also needed to be done, so I shouldn’t regret the loss of writing time, but I also am not going to be berating myself over.

I also forgot the Saints played yesterday, just assuming the game would be Sunday. Oops.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines while leaving you with one last, past the actual day Christmas hunk. Have a lovely 26th, everyone.

Harper Valley PTA

Hey, hey, Saturday, what have you got to say?

I feel very good this morning, after another deep and restful night’s sleep. I’ve been allowing myself to stay in bed longer than usual–figuring if I have a mild case of the virus, as I suspect I do–that more rest certainly can’t hurt and might even help. It looks overcast this morning in New Orleans, and one of the things I did last night with the buzz I got from the Chardonnay was start the organization process in my kitchen. It was lovely, actually, to wake up and come downstairs to an organized and neat desk. My next thing to do is get my MWA stuff organized, and this morning I am going to get through everything in my email inbox, if it kills me.

I honestly don’t think it will.

And I want to get some writing done today as well. As I said, I feel terrific this morning; I can’t remember the last time I woke up in the morning and felt great, rather than however it was I was feeling when I got up. I think I’ve turned a corner, and here’s hoping that I can start whipping everything back into shape and getting my life back under control–which is something I’ve not really been feeling lately. That’s the problem with crises like the pandemic; they are so big and enormous and overwhelming that you can’t really grasp them, with the end result you’re almost paralyzed and unable to get anything accomplished. The truth is you can’t worry about it too much, you can’t worry about the future, and you have to let go–which is incredibly difficult, not as easy or as incredibly simplistic as it sounds–and simply focus on what you can do to keep yourself going and get your mind off it. Stress and worry isn’t going to solve anything, and in fact might make things worse by draining your energy and making you feel everything is so hopeless that it can easily turn into depression and lethargy. (I’m genuinely concerned about the suicide rate and mental health issues over the next few months; I remember that Katrina aftermath far too well.

Simply put, the entire country kind of needs a Xanax prescription.

Paul is going into his office today. He assumes the building is going to be completely closed down soon, and is assembling everything he needs to continue working from home. It looks as though I will be able to start going back into the office, if to do nothing else than helping out with the screenings to let people into the building, so that’s going to get me out of the house. I was very tired yesterday after all the interaction and five hours of screening in the very warm garage of our building, but I’ll also be able to retreat into the air conditioning of the building and head up to my desk where I can do some work up there as well. I do like the idea of having to leave the house every day, even as the city continues to shut down more and more; the lack of traffic and the ease of getting around the city certainly makes a difference.

One thing I’ve been wrestling with–and perhaps other writers have been as well–is what do we do with our writing? It is, at best, an enormous national trauma we’re dealing with; do we pretend in our fictional worlds that the pandemic never happened? As with Katrina, it was difficult to do while it was ongoing because you didn’t know how it was all going to play out; so since the end wasn’t in sight there was no happy ending with the Katrina story and we also don’t know how this is going to play out. How can I start writing another Scotty book, other than setting in the past before the pandemic, without knowing how this is going to play out? It was easy to never talk about 9/11 in the Scotty or Chanse books, but obviously I couldn’t ignore Katrina, and I suspect this pandemic is going to be roughly the same. It also occurs to me this morning as I type this–this is how my mind works; as I type I start thinking who in Scotty’s world would die from this? and immediately I went to the grandparents. When I think about ages and so forth I realize how old Scotty’s grandparents–and his parents–have to be now that he’s in his forties and the youngest of three; and I realize I’ve always alluded to their being more relatives on the Diderot side but have never really explored it any further than that. I touched on the Bradley side of the family a little bit more than usual in Who Dat Whodunnit, but for the most part, at least for Scotty, his family primarily consists of his siblings, his parents, his Diderot grandparents, and the boys. Maybe this is the time to explore the extended family a bit more?

I don’t know, I was kind of torn about whatever the next Scotty may be; I have a list of titles to chose from and some amorphous ideas about what the next one will be, ranging from Hollywood South Hustle to Bywater Bohemia Bourgie to Congo Square Conga–I have so many of these titles already thought up, you can rest assured that I will never run out of Scotty titles–and the plots to go with them. Scotty plots are always amorphous and ambiguous when I start writing them; I don’t feel like I did the entertainment industry and movie stars the proper treatment in Murder in the Rue Ursulines, which, if you will recall, was originally intended to be a Scotty book, and then was adapted into a Chanse instead. The original idea behind Hollywood South Hustle was that Scotty would be minding his own business as he walked home from his parents (or the bars) when someone shoots at him in front of a walled-in house on one of the side streets in the lower Quarter, because it turns out from behind he can pass for a Brad Pitt-like movie star who has moved to New Orleans and is being targeted for some reason–and this draws him into the weird world of Hollywood celebrity. I don’t know that I would use that same opening and methodology of drawing Scotty into the case–particularly now that he and the boys have sort of adopted Frank’s college student nephew–but there’s also a good local scandal from the last ten year about the film industry I could use; and perhaps graft that onto another abandoned idea for a Scotty–the book I was going to write next when Katrina happened; Hurricane Party Hoedown, because I was interested in exploring the corruption of wealth and power, in which the young scion of a wealthy Louisiana family becomes obsessed with a a handsome young gay man and ends up throwing acid in his face, only to escape to Europe to avoid prosecution and now, ten years later, the runaway heir is returning to New Orleans to face the music and his victim is obviously worried. (One night as I sat in my easy chair wishing I was finished with Royal Street Reveillon and thinking about the next Scotty and going through all the story ideas I have for him, it occurred to me how I could graft that particular story onto the movie scandal and tie the two separate storylines into one book; I may go ahead and do that.)

But once I get everything unfinished here in the Lost Apartment under control I am going to start writing Chlorine. That is the next and most important thing for me to get done, and in order to get to that I have to get this other stuff finished. As I was organizing my files and filing last night I realized that over the last month or so I have started a ridiculous amount of short stories without finishing a first draft of any of them: “Smoky Mountain Rest Stop”, “Festival of the Redeemer”, “You Won’t See Me”, the Sherlock story, “He Didn’t Kill Her”, and “Gossip”–in addition to all the unfinished ones I already have on hand, which is frankly insane. But today I am going to work on the Sherlock story, get back to the Secret Project, and start writing down ideas for the next Scotty.

And while I am doing that, I am going to clean my apartment and maybe even do a little bit of pruning with the books–which are slowly but surely starting to take over the apartment again.

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and stay safe.

augDaniel-McCarroll2