Gold Dust Woman

Rock on, gold dust woman, take your silver spoon and dig your grave…

It’s FRIDAY, FRIDAY, got to get down it’s Friday! I love getting to sleep a bit later–I still wake up originally at the usual ungodly hour, but it’s nice to feel comfortable and then relax some more into the bed and the blankets. It looks like tropical depression nine is on its way to becoming Hermine, and has Florida in its path. I hate the feeling of relief that comes when you see the storm track models don’t come near Louisiana because you’re essentially wishing disaster, misery and grief on other people–nothing like hurricane season to realize how selfish you really are–but horrible as it is, it’s also understandable.

I really do need to address that in a book at some point. I know I’ve done hurricane novels and stories before (it amuses me to no end that, as per my entry the other morning, my first Katrina writing was a porn story, “Disaster Relief,” in which the main character has sex with his FEMA inspector), but I still want to do one that takes place in town after everyone has evacuated and the city is practically empty. I’ve had that idea for a long time (it was going to be the fourth Scotty, shelved after Katrina for obvious reasons) and I think that eerie sense of waiting and calm with the city practically empty would make or an interesting setting and backdrop for a crime novel. I could be wrong, but I definitely want to try it sometime.

We watched some more of Dahmer last night, and the show is probably the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen. I appreciate the lack of romanticization of our lead character the monstrous cannibal serial killer, and it almost feels like a documentary. Evan Peters is absolutely stunning in the lead role (I see another Emmy in his future) and it’s compulsively watchable even as it is difficult to watch. The actor playing his father is also fantastic. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be raised in the environment Dahmer was raised in, with his mentally unbalanced mother and the fraught marriage between them, as well as how cold, self-absorbed, and monstrous his mother was. It’s no wonder he turned out the way he did–and clearly, not everyone is cut out to be a good parent (something that is always left out of the pro-life arguments, I might add; they gloss over the truth that so many people aren’t fit to be parents and just how many children are warped, abused and even murdered by parents who shouldn’t be parents).

I also started rereading some of my erotica last night, the Todd Gregory novel Every Frat Boy Wants It, and was highly amused to discover/remember how well I did my assignment in the writing of my first erotic novel: it’s pretty graphic and sexual right down to the very opening of the book. The book opens with the main character, Jeff Morgan, having a very intense and explicit sexual daydream about his high school crush…only to find out he was in a summer school class in college. He then meets a classmate, Blair Blanchard, who belongs to the fraternity and they become friends. Blair is also gay (Jeff is still kind of closeted) and gets Jeff to join the same fraternity. It’s a sexual coming of age story, set in a fraternity house at the fictional California State University-Polk (Polk being my stand-in for Fresno) and Blair shows Jeff the ropes of being gay–and since Blair’s parents are movie stars, he can provide entrée for Jeff into the glittering worlds of West Hollywood and Palm Springs and the entertainment industry. There’s a lot of sex in the book–a lot–but I only got about a third of the way into it before setting it aside for the moment as my brain tired out a bit (yesterday wasn’t a tiring day, but it was also one where I felt like my rest of the night before only recharged the batteries to the amount they’d been used the day before, so I wasn’t tired but also wasn’t motivated much) and dove into some Youtube videos about history and war.

I’m hoping today to get back to work on the book. Chapter Three is a hideous mess, which makes the first two chapters also questionable, so I am going to spend some time today trying to repair the mess as well as try to restructure the first three chapters so they flow better. I’d like to get a couple more chapters written this weekend, but it’s also going to depend heavily on whether I can get this chapter pulled back together–along with the earlier chapters–to flow the way a Scotty book should flow. I am also going to try to reread Who Dat Whodunnit this weekend as I work my way back through the series (it is enormously helpful) and I may even try to get started on writing that Scotty lexicon (which isn’t the word I want, but it’s the only one I can think of right now) but it has, even if I don’t get that done or started, been very educational rereading the series, of recapturing that mentality of anything goes/anything can happen and Scotty will always remain unflappable in the face of whatever insane story I throw him into the middle of, which makes him so much fun to write. I also want to get back to reading my Donna Andrews novel, so I may spend some time after work today in Caerphilly and then will most likely spend some time there the next two mornings over my coffee; there really is nothing like reading something over your morning coffee–which reminds me, I also need to reread My Cousin Rachel this weekend too. So, kind of a busy weekend for one Gregalicious as always–and of course, I need to run errands and so forth as well. Woo-hoo!

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. May your Friday be as lovely as you are, Constant Reader, and I will talk to you again either later today or tomorrow morning.

Mabel Normand

Saturday in the Lost Apartment and all is well–at least so far.

I ran errands last night on my way home from work so I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything today involving leaving the house, and I think I’ll go ahead and make groceries on-line today to pick up tomorrow; we don’t really need a lot of stuff but it must be done. There’s a part of me that feels incredibly lazy doing this for some reason–perhaps the more I do it, the less guilt I’ll feel about having someone else make my groceries for me. I guess that’s really what it is; getting used to a new service. I mean, even the Fresh Market will do this, too–but one of the things I like about the Fresh Market is, well, everything seems fresher than at the other groceries, and picking out fruit and vegetables isn’t something I am willing to trust to another person just yet. I like to see the fresh stuff I am buying and pick it (although I am still regretting not stopping at that roadside stand when I was on the North Shore last weekend and picking up some Creole tomatoes fresh from the field, especially since I’ve not seen any in stores since then).

It rained again most of the day, and of course we’re still under a flood warning through sometime tonight. There are two systems out there I’ve yet to check but probably will momentarily. It’s that time of year when we seem to be getting hit with a higher degree of frequency since Katrina–just before Labor Day–and I know there have been at least three more storms around this time that I can think of right off the top of my head (2008, 2012, and last year for sure). Well, I took a look and yes, there is still a system in the Caribbean near the Yucatan, and there’s another one developing in the eastern Atlantic (meaning there are now two out there) but at least we’re okay for now. Labor Day weekend, on the other hand, could be something else entirely. Last year’s Ida was more of a Labor Day thing, if I am remembering correctly, or at least its impact and aftermath lasted through Labor Day. (2021 is still kind of blurry for me.)

The sun is shining right now, and I rested really well last night. A good night’s sleep is always a pleasure on the weekends, of course, and I even allowed myself the indulgence of sleeping in a little later. I have some laundry to finish and a sink to clear in the kitchen, and some other casual cleaning up and household maintenance to take care of this morning before I dive back into the wonderful world of work. I did get Chapter One rewritten Thursday–still leaves something to be desired, but isn’t completely the shitty mess it was before–and I did get started revising Chapter Two, which is going to be trickier–and then I have to springboard into Chapter Three, which I still have to figure out. I also want to do some work on some other things I am working on (as always) and I want to dedicate some time to reading Gabino’s marvelous novel The Devil Takes You Home today and tomorrow. I’ve actually been better these last couple of weeks at not being completely exhausted when I get home, which has also enabled me to try, at some level, to keep up with the housework so I don’t have to spend the entire day today cleaning and organizing and filing–there will be some of that, of course, and I also have to spend some time revisiting older Scotty books; maybe one of the things I could do today is start working on the Scotty Bible? That would help me remember everything that’s going on in the family and refresh my brain about some other things (did I ever give Rain’s doctor husband a name, for one really strong example of bad memory) and of course it would never hurt to have all of that assembled in one place that is easily accessible. Heavy sigh.

We also are watching Bad Sisters on Apple TV, and am really enjoying it. It’s rather dark; it’s about five extremely close Irish sisters who lost their parents young and were all raised by the oldest sister, who now lives in the family home, is single and apparently unable to have children. One of the sisters is married to an emotionally abusive asshole named John Paul who apparently takes delight in torturing and being cruel not only to his wife but to her sisters. One decides he needs to die, and recruits the oldest to help her kill him…and then each episode details how another sister got involved in the plan. The show opens with his funeral, so we know they succeed at some point, but the story alternates between the past (the sisters slowly coming together to decide to kill The Prick, which is what they all call him) and the team of brothers who work for the insurance company who have to pay out the death claim. The brothers (half-brothers, actually; one is played by the same hot actor who played the escort Emma Thompson hires for sex in her most recent film, which we enjoyed and I can’t recall the name of now) don’t really get along either. The oldest is convinced John Paul was murdered, but the younger brother is really attracted to the youngest sister and they are starting to develop a romantic relationship. It’s quite cleverly written and plotted–and even before I was completely sold on the show, I realized I wanted to keep watching because I hated John Paul so much I wanted to see how they decided to kill him and how. But well into the second episode I had to confess to being hooked. I loved the dueling timelines (I have always been a sucker for stories that are told this way, both the past and the present, flashing back and forth; I’ve always wanted to do one that way, but it seems really hard. A good example of a crime novel using this technique is Alison Gaylin’s What Remains of Me), the writing is sharp, and the acting top notch. It also takes place in Ireland, with gorgeous cinematography. I’ll keep you posted as we continue to watch.

We also watched the latest episode of Five Days at Memorial, which was truly painful to watch. The first episodes didn’t really get to me, but episode five–the fifth day, when the decision was made that everyone had to be out of the hospital and whoever couldn’t get out would be left behind regardless of the consequences, was absolutely wrenching in a way the previous episodes had not been. My Katrina scars are as nothing compared to what a lot of other people experienced: I survived, I was able to get out before the storm arrived, and my scars, while still from loss, are from bearing witness by watching television and witnessing what I saw when I finally came home in October, as well as living in a nearly-empty, 90% destroyed city after my return. (Last year, when we trapped here as Ida came in, was bad enough; I cannot imagine how horrible it would have been to have been stuck here praying for someone to come rescue us. At least we were able, and had the means, to finally get out when we ran out of food and water.)

I’ve also found myself thinking a lot about my Katrina writing these last couple of days–my essay “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet”; my short stories “Disaster Relief” and “Annunciation Shotgun” and “Survivor’s Guilt”; and of course, Murder in the Rue Chartres. I was thinking about this book last night–partly because of watching Five Days at Memorial, because it reminded me that Rue Chartres wasn’t supposed to be the third Chanse book at all. The third Chanse book was supposed to be something else altogether, but obviously in the wake of Hurricane Katrina my plans for both the Chanse and Scotty series had to dramatically shift and change. Seventeen years ago was a Saturday, the Saturday we nervously watched the storm, having now crossed south Florida and entered the Gulf, intensifying and growing and taking aim directly at New Orleans. We decided to not leave just yet; every other time a hurricane had threatened the city after we moved here we watched and waited patiently, and were rewarded with the storm turning east before coming ashore and the city avoiding a direct hit. We never lost phone, cable or power during those other instances–we were nervous, still reassuring ourselves of the turn to the east before landfall but the reality that we would have to leave was becoming more and more real. It’s odd that this year the dates all on the same day they fell back in 2005, so it’s a reflective anniversary that mirrors the actual weekend it happened. I’m debating whether I want to watch the new documentary on HBO MAX, Katrina Babies–that might be definitely too much for me to handle. (I’m still surprised that we’re able to–and were willing to–watch Five Days at Memorial, to be honest.)

At least I know Paul won’t be shaking me awake tomorrow morning at eight saying, Honey, we need to go.

OH! I didn’t tell you. Yesterday my other glasses I ordered from Zenni arrived–the red frames and the purple frames, and I absolutely love them. I don’t think I need to order any more pairs, to be honest, but it’s so cool to have them! And to have options now. I never ever thought of glasses as anything other than utilitarian, to be honest; I needed them to work and that was all I cared about, and I also thought they were too expensive to treat as part of a “look” or to be more style conscious…but Zenni is so inexpensive; the three pairs I got are all cheaper than the pair I got with my eye exam, and using my insurance. Had I saved my insurance for use on Zenni, they would have been even cheaper.

Life. CHANGED.

And on that note, I am going to make some more coffee and dive back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

Invisible Touch

The last Monday in June dawns, and I am tired and sleepy and despite sleeping well, am awake much earlier than my body wants me to be. And while hot New Orleans summers are almost a stereotype at this point, it’s already hotter here than it usually is at this time; it feels more like August out there than late June. Taking the streetcar down to the Quarter both Saturday and Sunday drained me, physically; I think that’s why I am so tired and out of sorts this morning. Perhaps that will allow me to write from my subconscious this morning; we shall see how that goes.

I was so drained yesterday after I got home that I sat down at the computer and started Chapter 21; I managed about 300 excruciatingly painful words before I finally gave up and retired to my easy chair to watch the end of Cardinal and an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale; we are about three episodes behind on it. It’s hard to watch, particularly with what is going on in the country at the moment, quite frankly; the idea of children being taken away from their mothers, while always sickening, is particularly rough to watch right now.

But I just have to get through this week and I only have a two-day work-week next week; then comes a lovely six-day stay-cation, or whatever you want to call it. I am definitely looking forward to that down time to clean the house, move some things to storage, clean out some cabinets and so forth; I’ve decided that the 4th itself will be my day of rest and then I will focus on getting things done on the other days I have off, which will be lovely.

But all I really want to do right now is go back to sleep. But I must persevere. The spice must be mined.

The next story in my collection Promises in Every Star and Other Stories is “Disaster Relief”:

“Most of the damage is upstairs,” I said as I unlocked the front door to my apartment and pushed the door open. I stood in the doorway and allowed him to pass. “Although we did get some mold down here on the walls.” I shrugged. I’d shown the wreckage that had been my home for just two months to so many people by this time that it didn’t affect me anymore. The first time I’d walked in after Katrina had gone through I had been in shock. You never expect to see your home in that condition; mold running down the walls, plaster wreckage covering the stairs, your bed a mildew factory. It had made me sick to my stomach.

Well, that and the smell coming from the refrigerator.

It was my home, it was the same apartment I’d been so excited to move into a million years ago in June, but I didn’t feel the same way about it as I did before.

Christian Evans, my FEMA inspector, whistled as he walked in and took a look around. “Nice place.”

“It was.” I used to love the high ceilings, the two ceiling fans, the curved staircase leading up to the second floor, and the hardwood floor I polished until it was like a mirror. Now the floor was covered with dust from the collapsed ceiling upstairs. The plaster on the walls in the living room was cracked, and the true enemy was evident on the ceiling—those horrible black spreading spots of mold that looked like ink blots. But at least the ever-present stench of mold and mildew was hardly noticeable anymore.

And I’d won my epic battle with the refrigerator.

“But I imagine you’ve seen a lot worse.” I went on, hugging myself. It was a cool morning with a strong breeze blowing that made it seem colder, and of course I didn’t have the heat turned on. Not much point in trying to warm the place when there was no ceiling upstairs. Of course he’s seen worse, I scolded myself. That had been my litany ever since I’d come back.

You’re one of the lucky ones, remember that.

Christian shrugged. He was a small man, maybe about five eight, in his early thirties. He was cute in that nondescript metrosexual “is he gay or straight?” way. He had a light brown goatee, and had gelled his brown hair into that just-got-out-of-bed look that seemed to be all the rage. Before the storm, I’d always referred to that style as the freshly fucked look. I’d never really cared for it much, but it worked on him. He had a way of grinning that somehow worked with the gelled hair. “I’ve been out to the 9th Ward and Lakeview,” he said as he pulled his laser pointer out of his pocket and started measuring the dimensions of the room. “So you lost your couch?”\

This story came about because of a post on my blog I made about our FEMA inspector.

That was a crazy weekend, all those years ago. My friends and fellow authors Timothy and Becky, part of the Timothy James Beck writing team, had scheduled a book event the week before Thanksgiving as a fundraiser for Katrina relief and invited me to participate; we’d become friends through our blogs and had communicated a lot, and this was an opportunity to meet in person as well as for me to get away from the ruins of New Orleans for a few days. I had already planned on driving up to Kentucky for the holiday, and the plan was to swing through Illinois afterwards to pick up Paul and Skittle and bring them home at long last. My car needed new spark plugs and possibly a tune-up, which I planned on getting done in Houston.  My grandmother died on the Thursday I was in Houston; my mother called me on Friday to tell me the service/funeral would be on Sunday so I needed to go to Alabama on Saturday. Okay, fine, cool. Then Paul called me to tell me the FEMA instructor was coming by at 8 am on Saturday morning to go through our house, so I needed to be there.

JFC.

My car was finished at six thirty that evening, so I drove back to New Orleans from the auto repair shop and got up at seven the next morning to meet the FEMA inspector–and once he was done, I was going to drive to Alabama. The FEMA inspector was very attractive and sexy; after the tour of the apartment I wrote in my blog Is it wrong to find your FEMA inspector sexy? I could probably write a really weird erotic short story about having sex with your FEMA inspector in the ruins of your house.

Someone–I don’t remember who–commented on the blog not only asking me to write the story but promising to include/publish it; whether it was on a website or in an anthology, I don’t recall. So, while I was at my parents’ in Kentucky for the holidays, I wrote “Disaster Relief.” it was my first Katrina piece of fiction, and it was pretty good, if I do say so myself.

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