This Time of Night

It rained pretty much all day yesterday; it was grim and gray until the sun went down. It continued to drizzle overnight, and it’s gray and cold and wet outside this morning. When I first woke up (I stayed in bed for at least another hour) it was still raining; I could hear it pelting the windows, which were also rattling with the wind. But now I am awake, Scooter has received his morning insulin shot, and I am sitting down at my computer with my first cup of coffee sort of ready to face this blustery day. I managed to get a lot done yesterday–I even worked on the book last night!–and then we got caught up on both Servant and The Stand. I have to say, I had high hopes for this remake/reboot/whatever-want-to-call-it of The Stand; it’s long been one of my favorite Stephen King novels, if not the absolute favorite, and I greatly enjoyed the original television miniseries from the early 1990’s, even if it was flawed. This version? I give them props for telling the story in a completely different, non-linear way, and the casting was very well thought out. But…I suddenly had some misgivings about the plot, the story, and how it was being depicted on the screen; “New Las Vegas”, in both book and both adaptations, was supposedly a new wicked city, on the lines of the great Biblical cities of sin like Sodom, Gomorrah, and Babylon the Great; and as I watched the so-called debauchery of this new edition of the Biblical cities of sin, I began thinking about the queers, and how we are completely missing from this narrative; also, about how “sinful debauchery” was being depicted on the screen.

And it didn’t really sit well with me, to be completely honest. There’s I think maybe one more episode left, and we’ll watch as we are completists; we generally don’t finish things that we don’t like but if we don’t absolutely hate something or think it’s completely terrible, we tend to finish watching. Servant is far superior; dark and demented and twisted, and getting even worse with each successive episode as Lauren Ambrose’s descent into madness grows worse and worse with each episode, and her brother and husband’s consistent enabling of her demented fantasies “to protect her from a truth she cannot handle”–well, good intentions and all that, you know. It’s fascinating to watch, frankly; just when we think it can’t get any more insane it laughs in our faces and yells, “Watch this, bitches!” Really, it’s quite extraordinary.

As I sat in my easy chair watching the LSU-Auburn gymnastics meet (before we moved on to our shows) I found myself writing notes for not just “The Rosary of Broken Promises” but for “To Sacrifice a Pawn” and “Never Kiss a Stranger” last night. It dawned on me during the uneven parallel bars performances by LSU that the primary problem I’ve had with “Never Kiss a Stranger” when writing it was because I was starting the story in the wrong place; my main character has just retired from the military after twenty years of service–he was tipped off that he was most likely going to be caught up in the next “gay sweep” before ‘don’t ask don’t tell” takes effect, so he filed the papers and got out. With nowhere really to go to start his life anew, he comes to New Orleans (around 1994/1995) and as he starts living as an our gay man, he rents an apartment from a widow whose only child died of AIDS the year before, begins coming to terms with who he is and what he wants from life while working as a barback at Oz, and meets a young man he begins to have feelings for…but he can also feel the presence of his landlady’s dead son in his apartment, and there’s a serial killer in New Orleans praying on gay men, the city itself is crumbling and decaying and dying, and how I want to pull all those separate threads together. Obviously, it’s fairly complicated, but I was starting the story with him arriving in New Orleans on a Greyhound bus and renting a room at the Lee Circle YMCA and looking for a place to live….and it dawned on me last night that that is all backstory, and the story should open with him finding the apartment and renting it….and then voluminous notes followed before I jumped into the other two stories. So I am feeling creative and getting stuff finished on that level; which is very cool and pleases me. Today I have some errands to run, some cleaning to do and as always, of course there is writing to be done because there is always writing to be done. But if I can get these next chapters done that I want to get done today, I can have an easier day tomorrow doing edits on the hard copies of the finished chapters and plan what else needs to be done this week. I am taking Lundi Gras off, so next weekend will be a lovely four day weekend following two work-at-home days, which will be really nice–and should help me get very much further on this book being completed. Huzzah!

Yesterday while I was making condom packs I decided to view my first film in what I call the 80’s Teen-sploitation Film Fest. I’ve always thought there were a clearly delineated line between movies directed for a younger audience prior to the 1980’s and those that came after; I, as always, have an uneducated film student type theory that has probably already been deeply explored, debunked, and argued about endlessly. My theory is that the one-two punch of Porky’s and Fast Times at Ridgemont High forever changed the face or youth movies; Porky’s was all about the raunchy teen sex comedy, all about sex-crazed teen boys; Ridgemont High showed that girls were just as obsessed/concerned about sex as the boys, and the idea that breaking the rules for kids–drinking, having sex, experimenting with drugs–required punishment of some sort–they needed to suffer for the experimentation, was kind of thrown out the window (although slasher films targeted at the youth market were also on the rise during this time; and as was pointed out so brilliantly in the Scream movies–the victims often were being punished for breaking the rules; another interesting theorem branching off from the original). So, I decided to revisit a film I saw in the theater and actually enjoyed at the time–and did also on subsequent viewings on cable: Class.

Reader, it does not hold up at all–if it ever did, frankly; the misogyny is so deeply embedded in this film that it’s hard to imagine there being anything left if the misogyny is removed. Class is really two movies combined into one: a coming of age movie about a young scholarship student who bonds with his wealthy roommate, which is kind of a sex comedy; and a deeply tragic story about the wealthy student’s mother. The always exquisite Jacqueline Bisset plays the mother opposite Cliff Robertson as her austere and cold husband–there was a lot of story there the screenwriters sadly chose to ignore at the expense of the teen sex comedy they were aiming for. The result is the movie doesn’t really work, and Bisset’s character, Ellen, never really makes any sense other than “oh she has psychological problems, takes drugs and drinks too much.” This is basically shrugged off like it’s nothing, nor is the damage this bad marriage has inflicted on their son ever explored or thought about or even discussed. The son is played by a young and incredibly beautiful Rob Lowe; the scholarship student is played by Andrew McCarthy in his debut film. The friendship between the two is the core of the movie; but even it never makes sense. Rob plays Skip–extroverted, beautiful, young, and rich– as an immensely likable asshole with an over-the-top sense of humor. There are some funny scenes, but the core of the movie is based in the hormone-riddled sex fever dreams of teenaged boys who drink and smoke pot and try to get laid and spend most of their time figuring out ways around the rules and partying. There are some funny moments–but for the most part the movie can’t make up its mind as to whether its supposed to be comedy or drama. One of the fun things about the movie is seeing any number of young stars of the future in small roles–John Cusack, Joan Cusack, Virginia Madsen, and Casey Siezmansko all are in the movie, as well as it being McCarthy’s debut and an early film in the Lowe canon. The retread plot, which has Jonathon (McCarthy) going to a bar in Chicago (sent by Skip) to try to get laid, being humiliated by a woman who also looked familiar, and then finally Ellen (Bisset) taking pity on him and seducing him, beginning an affair in which he meets her in Chicago every weekend. She of course doesn’t know he’s a high school student; even as young as he looks, one would assume a man you meet in a bar would be over eighteen–and it’s on a trip to New York for the weekend that his wallet falls open while he’s trying on close and she sees his student ID. She flees, and that’s the end of the affair. Later, when Skip brings Jonathon home with him, he discovers he’s been sleeping with his best friend’s mother–and then it turns truly tragic. Ellen is for some reason now obsessed with Jonathon, calling him all the time at school and begging him to meet her until he finally agrees–and of course, Skip and his buddies crash the hotel where they have gotten a room (somehow finding out their room number) and bust in on them. The rest of the movie has Skip choosing not to reveal a secret of Jonathon’s about cheating on the SAT, the two of them getting into a brutal fist fight–and once it’s over, they are friends again. Roll credits.

It is only recently that we as a society have begun to view the older woman/teenage boy sexual dynamic as abusive rather than as a fantasy; there were a rash of these type films in the early 1980’s (another that comes to mind is My Tutor, with gorgeous Matt Lattanzi being seduced by a beautiful woman hired by his father to tutor him–sexually as well as academically, and Weird Science also had the same premise–but I don’t think the boys ever had sex with their creation) which was part of the weird “boys are studs/girls are sluts” mentality that has been so pervasive in our society for so long–I’ve never seen it, but I also believe Tea and Sympathy falls into this category, as does Summer of ’42–and as I said, it is only recently, with several high profile cases, that we as a society have begun to look a little askance at this idea (we came to the conclusion that older men/teenaged girls was abuse much, much sooner). I hated A Teacher as we watched it, but now…having seen Class again and remembering these other films, which portray these kinds of relationships as something to be desired…I might have to rethink my opinion of how heavy-handed A Teacher was in its “this is a LESSON we all need to learn” stridency. There have been a score of these types of court cases in Louisiana–the Destrehan one where two young female teachers were fucking a student comes to mind–and it’s something I would really like to explore in a book sometime.

And on that note, tis time for me to head back into the spice mines. So much to do, so much to get done….and so little time in which to do it all. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

Hold On

Good morning, Wednesday, how are you?

It’s very cold again this morning; I am swathed in a blanket and I also dug out the space heater. According to the weather, it is a mere 48 degrees this morning–warmer than yesterday, certainly, but still not exactly balmy as the sky begins to lighten and I sip my cappuccino and blearily try to withdraw from the arms of Morpheus. I was exhausted last night, and even went to bed before ten. No insomnia, I am pleased to report, last night. I slept deeply and well and–once the cobwebs clear–I will feel pretty well rested, which is kind of lovely.

I got another chapter of the book finished as well, which was also nice. It’s beginning to come together, and hopefully I can get another chapter done today. I need to go to the gym when I get off work today, so here’s hoping the weather gets warmer. The high is supposed to be in the low 60’s today–which is cold for a long walk, but I can hopefully hang with it. It depends, I suppose, on how tired I feel tonight when I get off work.

But the blanket and the space heater are working very well together this morning, and I am starting to feel warm now, which is lovely. I really don’t like cold weather. But why don’t you turn on the heat? you may well be asking yourselves. Because it’s an old New Orleans house, for one, and for another all the heat winds up on the second floor–so the first floor remains cold while the upstairs turns into a sauna. And so, those lovely windows around my desk with the sweet view and the wonderful natural light? Yeah, when it’s cold they are like cold conduits. The surface of my desk is very cold, my keyboard colder and, as Ali Valli commented on a Facebook post of mine the other day about the cold, “there’s nothing like a bathroom in an old south Louisiana house on a cold day.”

I was too tired last night to read, so The Bad Seed remains on my end table, beseeching me to pick it up and keep reading, alas. We did watch another episode of A Teacher on Hulu last night, and I’m not really sure what I think about this show, to be honest, other than it’s not particularly good? We’re kind of hate-watching it at this point…if you’re not aware of it, it’s another one of those “high school teacher has an affair with one of her students” stories. I know it’s probably misogynist of me, but I hate stories where someone behaves self-destructively; the entire time you’re watching you’re saying to yourself, “I just can’t be sympathetic to someone who is really that stupid.” I’m not really sure why there is such a fascination with these stories–I also know they are a lot more common in real life than we might want to think or believe; it seems like every few months or so some young female teacher in one of the more rural parishes around New Orleans is busted for sleeping with a student–there was one case, I think, maybe in Destrehan?–where two female teachers were having sex with the same student, and maybe they were having three ways? I don’t remember. But there have been several rather famous cases–maybe Mary Kay LeTourneau being the most notorious, since she allegedly got her lover-student and some of his friends to kill her husband–which is the case the book and movie To Die For were based on. It has led to some interesting conversations between Paul and myself about teacher-student relationships–in particular, the incredible difference between when it’s a male teacher and when it’s a female, as well as how they are reported on and discussed–and how the women always seems to fall in love with/become obsessed with their young male student lovers, whereas the men are inevitably just predators. (The women are also predators, don’t get me wrong–but the men move from target to target whereas the women become, usually, fixated on one particular student.) The show’s not done particularly well, really; I really don’t understand why this particular teacher fixated on her student, and I’m not really certain I understand the male student (who is played by the same kid who played the gay male lead in the atrocious Love, Simon) either.

Yesterday saw the official end of a publishing tradition: BookExpo is dead, never to be revived or rescheduled or anything. The event was expiring already–digital books, publishing mergers, etc. kind of did it in completely; and the event was already starting to die off when I first started going, back in 2000. The last time I went–I think–was either 2006 or 2007, and I could already see a significant difference from previous years–not as many events, not as many authors, not as many publishers–and it was so expensive. For me, it was fun to go, if a bit overwhelming–and I always took every book that was offered to me, because I always felt bad for people offering–but it’s definitely the end of an era. It makes you stop and think, really; what else is never going to come back after the pandemic? Things aren’t going to ever go back to the way they were–too much has already changed, and some work-arounds are turning out to be, actually, better in the long run than the way things were done before.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Hope you have a lovely and warm Wednesday!