Come Back…Be Here

And now it’s Thursday, and we’re sliding into the weekend slowly but surely. I’m just keeping my head down and doing what I need to get through what’s left of my life, frankly. I’m actually, as I near sixty, really grateful for being a gay American, particularly this week–because it means I am used to being disappointed in, and by, my fellow Americans.

I’ve always believed that more Americans than not would be perfectly happy if all queers were put in camps–and would be okay with people of color joining us there. I started writing a book about that very thing back in the early 1990’s–There Comes a Tide was what I called it, which is a great title I should repurpose, as I doubt I will ever write the book–which led me to study the rise of Nazism in Germany, which I knew about but not in any kind of depth. It was really a strange experience–but one I would recommend…because it put me into a mindset of looking around at my friends and family and co-workers and wondering, if they came for the queers, who would avert their eyes? Who would pretend it wasn’t happening? And who would do and/or say something? Who could I count on to hide me?

It was, quite frankly, a horrible exercise in cynicism, human nature and brutal honesty…and I also began, at the same time, to understand why the movie Cabaret was actually so fucking brilliant, and that Bob Fosse was, after all, a genius–something I recognize more and more every time I watch the film again. (Maybe it’s time for yet another rewatch, and it definitely would fit into the Cynical 70’s Film Festival…hmmm. Definitely worth a second thought for sure.) I also want to watch more of Fosse’s films–I don’t think I’ve ever seen All That Jazz all the way through, and there’s also Lenny and Star 80….hmmm some more.

I did make it to the gym last evening after work and it was quite marvelous. I was definitely too cranky, wound up and tired to go Tuesday–and while I did worry that not going was the first step onto that slippery slope of “blow it off once, you’re much more likely to blow it off twice”, I did manage to not only go after work last night, I actually enjoyed it, felt tremendous after I went, and I kind of liked the walk through the neighborhood in the dark. It was a lovely cool evening, and when I walked past Coliseum Square a “piano truck” had parked there along Race Street, and while I did leave my headphones in, I thought it was kind of charming that a freelance pianist was set up in the park. I am still amazed at how much better I feel now that I am working out again–it eases my stress, releases tension in my back and other muscles, and the stretching is simply marvelous. I’m still getting used to my new gym–seeing new people, using new machines that are slightly different from any I’ve used before, and everyone there seems really nice–but it still doesn’t feel like my gym yet; but then we belonged to St. Charles Athletic Club for seventeen years, which is an incredibly long time to belong to a gym. But then again, when you’re pushing sixty, there are any number of things you’ve been doing routinely for a very long time.

I did work on “Condos, for Sale or Rent” for a hot minute last night as well before repairing to the easy chair–I’ve become addicted to a series of Youtube videos called Lost in Adaptation, where the narrator (Dom, a British guy) compares novels to the film adaptations, including “what they kept” and “what they changed.” (My personal favorite with the David Lynch Dune vs. the novel; suffice it to say Dom found the film as ludicrous and silly an adaptation as I did. He also did good ones for Rebecca, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, The Bad Seed, and The Shining.)

I slept deeply and well last night and feel very rested this morning, which is great. While the election still isn’t quite yet over, I’ve reached a kind of zen-like state about the entire thing, and I find that, once again, I was carrying a lot of electoral stress in my subconscious and in my back. I feel a lot more like myself now–indeed, yesterday and today both–like I’ve finally found myself again. There are still some things that I need to handle, but I am feeling better about them–and like I can get everything done that I need to get done, which is an absolutely lovely feeling, quite frankly. This has seriously been quite the year–and that is the definition of understatement, I think. Yeesh, Carnival certainly seems like it was a million years or so ago, doesn’t it? Granted, it was also the “Carnival of Death,” with two major parades ending early after floats killed people (!), which kind of should have let us all know that it was going to be a shit-show of a year; when Carnival sucks and isn’t fun….that should be the indicator that we all need to keep our heads down and try not to attract much attention and just try to endure it all. Granted, there’s still two nearly full months of 2020 to go, of course, and there’s still plenty of time left for sucker punches and cheap shots and low blows from this annus horribilis.

A most unpleasant but highly likely possibility.

Today is a work at home day for me, and I am debating what to watch during the condom packing part of my day. I’m going to check to see if Coppola’s 1974 film The Conversation (over-shadowed completely by being released in the same year as The Godfather Part II) is available to stream anywhere–I think it may be on Amazon Prime–and I also have to get my checking account straightened out at some point today; but I also don’t have to leave the house today if I don’t choose–and I am thinking I do not choose. I have stuff to make for dinner, and I can hold off groceries until Saturday, methinks. I really feel this morning that not going outside the house–other than to take out the trash and/or get the mail and/or go to the gym–until Saturday is optimal. I’m just really not in the mood for people, to be honest, and I like this rested feeling I am experiencing this morning.

And now to tackle the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, everyone.

Safe and Sound

Coffee is quite marvelous. Hello, dark roast my old friend…I’ve missed you so these last few days.

Saturday, and all is well again in the Lost Apartment. The power came back on yesterday afternoon, almost exactly forty-eight hours after it went out; and I immediately did the dishes and started a load of laundry. The Lost Apartment was already a mess before the storm came, and without light…well, it’s not only hard to clean but it’s fucking hard to find anything. I also was sleeping a lot–what else are you going to do when there’s no light, no power, no television, no Internet–and ironically, all the extra sleep simply made me more tired.

Then again, it could have been THE LACK OF COFFEE.

So today begins the actual process of digging out. The sidewalk along the house is covered in branches and various other storm debris, which will need to be cleaned up, bagged, and put on the curb. I need to go make groceries today, stop by the bank, get the mail, all sorts of things that have to be done. I need to start going through my emails, remembering where I was with everything and pick that back up again. One of the sad results of the storm is the neighbors spent a lot of yesterday chopping down some of the crepe myrtles in their back yard–those crepe myrtles blocked the sun from my windows, so now with them gone the sun shines directly into them–which is going to be a problem when the summer rolls around again. This means I will probably, finally, have to hang curtains over my workspace windows–else the hot summer sun will turn my kitchen–which already gets too hot–into a green house, and make it completely unbearable in here. I do have the little Arctic Air conditioners, and may have to be a few more to handle this new development. I may even have to figure out a new set-up for my workspace, because even as I type this the sun is in my eyes and quite unpleasant. Damned crepe myrtles, anyway.

LSU plays Auburn today; the sportscasters call it the Tiger Bowl, as both team names are Tigers. It’s a rivalry of sorts–neither school likes each other very much, but it’s not as bitter as the rivalry with Florida, or as long as the one with Mississippi. There’s no trophy, like there is for the Arkansas game, and there’s not as much bad blood as there is with Texas A&M. But LSU-Auburn–which used to cause a lot of conflict with me (not any more)–is inevitably always a very good, exciting game; there are few blow-outs, and it often has come down to the last minute, if not the final seconds. LSU has won three in a row–the out-of-nowhere come from behind upset win in 2017; the walk-off field goal in 2018; and in 2019 Auburn held LSU’s championship team to it’s lowest point total of the season (23; it was the only game LSU didn’t score over thirty points, and one of the very few games in which they didn’t score over forty). The game this year is kind of a make-or-break game for the season for both teams, so I am not sure that LSU will make it four in a row. LSU has only lost to Auburn three times in the past decade (2010, 2014, 2016)–and had they snapped the ball one second faster in 2016 they would have won that game. The game is at Auburn this year; Auburn hasn’t won in Baton Rouge since 1999–an impressive streak, actually. I need to get a lot done this morning so I can enjoy the game in peace, without worry or fear–and I also need to check the game time for the Saints’ game tomorrow.

We watched the season premiere of The Mandalorian last night, and as with every episode, I was incredibly impressed. The episode itself was kind of a throwback to the first Star Wars movie; it brings Mando and the Child back to Tatooine, to look for another mandalorian to help him find the Child’s people so he can deliver him back to his own kind safely, and involved the Tusken Raiders (sand people) from that first movie. They wind up working with guest star Timothy Olyphant (who really should be a much bigger star than he is), his town, and the Tusken Raiders to track down and kill a krayt dragon–which essentially was a sandworm from Dune, and a bit of a change for Star Wars and Tatooine; odd that these creatures never showed up or were mentioned before–but all in all it was a terrific episode and lots of fun, and as always, visually stunning. The Child–the break out star of the show–didn’t really have very much to do in the episode, but really, all he needs to do is be there. There’s also a teaser at the very end that Boba Fett–the Boba Fett–is still alive and on Tatooine; clues are dropped throughout the episode that allude to him, and wouldn’t that be an AMAZING development for the show? Yes, yes, it would. Needless to say, we love this show and are very excited for Friday nights for a new episode.

The weather has also turned; a cold front has rolled in behind the storm and it’s been a lovely change. It feels like fall now, just in time for Halloween. It doesn’t really seem like Halloween, quite frankly, despite the dressing up of houses and the candy on sale everywhere; I can’t imagine children are going to be trick-or-treating tonight, and of course Gay Halloween didn’t happen this year, or any of the big usual New Orleans Halloween things–masquerade balls, haunted houses, etc.–so like with so many other things this year that generally mark the passing of time, Halloween will come and go as just another date on the calendar.

I’m trying to decide what to read next; I have so many amazing books on hand that I want to get to that it makes deciding very difficult for me. I’m still reading Gore Vidal’s Lincoln, and am much further along in it than I thought I was. I’m feeling like I need to read some crime fiction, though some fantasy and horror novels I have on hand are looking pretty appealing at the moment. I didn’t do very well with my Halloween/October horror reading/watching month, which is of course is disappointing, but 2020 has been a rather disappointing kind of year, quite frankly. I think I have another unread Paul Tremblay I could start today–I also think there are some unread Christopher Goldens in my TBR pile as well.

I am kind of seeing the hurricane/power outage as a reboot of the year; like a force restart on my computer. I realize now that yesterday’s rant about the inconvenience of a power outage was evidence of privilege when others in the area are still without power, and lots of people are much worse off. But I also believe that you can’t even berate yourself for being frustrated with events beyond your control and shouldn’t stop yourself from venting simply because you are better off than others; that just bottles it all up and the explosion coming later is all the worse because you’ve bottled up anger and frustration–and Im sure this equanimity about it all this morning will change the moment I start going through my fridge and start dumping spoiled/ruined food that needs to be replaced.

Wednesday night wasn’t a good night, as I may have mentioned before; after the hurricane had passed the release of stress and so forth left me drained and exhausted and sleeping on and off before I went to bed very early (between nine and nine thirty!). Thursday night was kind of more fun; Paul and I lit all the candles and camped out in the living room and pretended we were back in college and one of us had forgotten to pay the power bill so we had to drink wine by candle light and hang out–and worry about paying the bill the next day. I’m rarely nostalgic for the past, and when nostalgia does come over me, it’s usually not my college years I look back to fondly…but there was something nice about sitting around with Paul drinking wine in candlelight and talking about things. I’ve decided to ignore politics and the election as much as I can; I’ve already decided who I am voting for and nothing is going to change my mind, so why torture myself with all the worry and stress and negativity? Everyone I know has decided, if not already voted; so I am pushing it all out of my mind until I get up Tuesday morning and walk over to the International School to cast my ballot for a return to sanity–and it’s all beyond my control anyway. I need to remember the lesson of not worrying about things I cannot control.

I went to the gym again yesterday morning before heading to the office for the afternoon; I am most pleased that I am sticking to the workout routine (although I’d intended to go on Thursday) and will be returning again tomorrow morning. My body feels so much better now that I am working out again, and as I get deeper into it, I am really looking forward to adding cardio and moving on to getting into better eating habits. I need to start checking my Mediterranean Diet cookbook–which I am also assuming will include more olives, feta cheese, and yogurt into my diet–but I need to dig back out from under again before starting something else new.

And on that note, I am going to make another cup of coffee and start the process of clean up. Have a lovely Halloween, Constant Reader, and may all your Halloween hopes and wishes come true.

I Wish You Would

Hurricane Delta is moving ever closer by the moment to our shores. This is one of the worst parts–the inevitable waiting, the need to be completely flexible, and the need to be ready to pack up and get out of Dodge in a hurry if need be. In that regard we are luckier than most when it comes to natural disasters; we have warning so we can get out while there is still time. Tornadoes and earthquakes don’t give you those options; with tornadoes sometimes it’s merely a matter of minutes (those years in Kansas…); earthquakes give you no warning whatsoever. Hurricanes clearly trigger PTSD in me–and have, ever since Katrina–but I would still rather deal with them than tornadoes or earthquakes (been through those during my years in California).

Ugh, natural disasters. Earth’s way of reminding us how unimportant and insignificant we really are.

There was a thing going around Twitter the other day, reading something along the lines of : Fellow authors, creatives… do you think it’s wise to tweet your policital opinions using your author/creative twitter account, or should you keep politics out of your creative timeline? Do you think it might lose you followers, readers, even work, or hurt your cause?

It did make me think a little bit at first. I generally don’t talk about politics much about my social media, or here on my blog; but it’s not about worrying that I might offend and lose readers, for fuck’s sake. The funniest thing to me about that tweet was precisely how privileged it was, and how the person tweeting it didn’t even have the slightest clue about the place of privilege she was coming from.

Simply stated, any writers that are not cishet white heterosexuals has had their very existence politicized, over and over and over again. Two Supreme Court justices, just this very week, very nastily announced that they don’t think queer people are entitled to equality in the eyes of the law; no surprise it was dumpster fires Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. I would love to have the privilege of not having my existence, and my status as an American citizen, politicized and reviled and attacked by bigots and monsters masking their demonic tactics are “religious liberty”; and a little louder for those of you in the back: if your religion is teaching you to treat any other human being with anything less than empathy, understanding, and compassion, you are doing religion wrong.

Period.

Frankly, I don’t exactly see how I could possibly lose any readers who are homophobes or racists or transphobes or fire-breathing conservatives because they would never buy books by a gay man centering gay men and themes in the first place. These are the ones who don’t buy your books but will waste their lives away going on Amazon and looking for queer writers to one-star, with a sentence about “not wanting a political agenda shoved down (their) throat.”

Books by and about queer people are political by nature of their very existence–and this is something which we, like writers of color and any other underprivileged minority in this country do not get to have a choice. The personal is the political for us; it is very interesting to me to see how much privilege is on display in tweets like the one above; while assuredly the intentions of the tweeter were good and she was genuinely curious what other people thought on the subject–other straight white people, obviously. It is an interesting subject, after all; moral stances don’t pay the bills, obviously, and at what point does your survival outweigh your principles?

Some authors are big enough, and successful enough, to not have to worry about offending or losing readers–which is another kind of privilege; recently seen on display with J. K. Rowling, and previously seen with writers like Orson Scott Card, among others–while those writers who aren’t marginalized for something beyond their control and are barely scraping by, hoping their sales will warrant yet another book contract, trying to figure out how to get the word out about their books and sell more copies while balancing a day job and family and everything else, possibly cannot afford to alienate any portion of their reader base if they want to keep writing. I get that, I really do; part of the reason I am so productive (per other people) is a definite fear that at some point my writing career will end–although I have also come to realize that while my career as Greg Herren might end, I could always create a new name and start over again–but it would be really nice to have the kind of reality that makes asking that question even possible to consider. As a gay male writer who writes about gay men and their experiences navigating this country and this world, obviously my books make a political statement; just my existence makes such a statement.

I refuse to closet myself or my work for the convenience of making homophobes more comfortable.

Suck on that, bitches.

Honestly.

Anyway, a friend reminded me of a short story the other day, and it had been quite the hot minute since I’d read Ray Bradbury’s “The Whole Town’s Sleeping,” and so I thought, why not reread it for the Short Story Project?

So I did.

The courthouse clock chimed seven times. The echoes of the chines faded.

Warm summer twilight here in upper Illinois country in this little town deep and far away from everything, kept to itself by.a river and a forest and a meadow and a lake. The sidewalks still scorched. The stores closing and the streets shadowed. And there were two moons; the clock moon with four faces in four night directions above the solemn black courthouse, and the real moon rising in vanilla whiteness from the dark east.

In the drugstore fans whispered in the high ceilings. In the rococo shade of porches, a few invisible people sat. Cigars glowed pink, on occasion. Screen doors whined their springs and slammed. ON the purple bricks of the summer-night streets, Douglas Spaulding ran; dogs an boys followed after.

“Hi, Miss Lavinia!”

Isn’t that a lovely start? I have to confess, I’ve not read much Bradbury–I’m not even sure how I read this story in the first place, but I remembered it; there must have been a short-story collection I picked up somewhere and read that I don’t recall. I know that I read it sometime after I had read Night Shift by Stephen King; because when I originally read this story it made me think of his story, “Strawberry Spring,” both in its style, voice and content SPOILER: both are serial killer stories, and both are written in that same Norman Rockwell Americana type voice; look at this sweet, picturesque American community, isn’t it lovely and aspirational and oh, by the way, there’s a serial killer on the loose. Before rereading the story, all I could remember was that weird Rockwellian voice, the Americana of the depiction of the town, and the ending. I also remembered the suspense of the scene where Miss Lavinia, after walking her companions home after seeing the Chaplin movie, thinks someone is following her as she hurries home alone. I’d forgotten that she and one of her friends found the body of the latest victim on the way to the movie, and yet continue on; that was extremely weird, and I also remembered the wonderful twist of the final sentence of the story, once she has safely gotten home. The serial killer, The Lonely One, kills a woman every month–and yet, in this pristine little slice of Americana small town life, no one in the town seems to take the killer all that seriously, or worry all that much about becoming his next victim. The voice vs the content is a masterstroke of writing, frankly; and I must admit, I’m not really sure why I haven’t read more Bradbury. I remember reading Something Wicked This Way Comes–I also remember thinking recently that I should reread it–and Dandelion Wine, and there must have been a short story collection I read as well; but I never read any of the science fiction–my education in Heinlein and other science fiction greats is also sorely lacking (although I have read quite a bit of Azimov and of course, Dune). I think I’ve avoided the great science fiction writers of back in the day because the advances in technology in reality have made some of those stories probably obsolete–watching 2001 recently, along with Blade Runner, was interesting in seeing what major corporations of the time they were made are no longer around (Pan Am and Howard Johnson’s, for a few) that people of the time couldn’t possibly imagine wouldn’t be around in the future. Perhaps I’ll move Something Wicked This Way Comes closer to the top of the reread pile. I didn’t enjoy it all that much at the time–I was expecting something a little more Stephen King-ish–and with more of an adult, better read mentality, I might enjoy and appreciate it more. I am certainly intrigued by that voice, which is very similar to the one he used in the short story.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely and safe Thursday, Constant Reader!

Welcome Back

I managed fourteen hundred words today, and then came up blank. I hate when that happens, but I just can’t force the creativity, you know? And those fourteen hundred words were hard to do, frankly. But I printed out the next chapter (Chapter Seven, to be exact) and will reread that at some point before getting to work on it, perhaps later, before Game of Thrones airs. I am planning on making this weird combination Swedish meatball/beef stroganoff dish for dinner (I’ve made both, and then one time when I was making Swedish meatballs later I realized I’d used the stroganoff recipe, but you know what? I also liked it. A lot. And I’ve made it that way ever since) later, and the kitchen is relatively clean already (and my goal is to leave it clean when I finish cooking; the worst thing is to go into my two long days at work with a messy kitchen, knowing it will most likely stay that way, getting worse, until Thursday–unless I somehow have more energy during the week than I usually do). I’ve filed stuff, cleaned the floors, paid the bills, made groceries, mailed things that needed to be mailed, and I wrote fourteen hundred words on the WIP today before running out of steam. Perhaps someday I’ll work my way back up to those halcyon days of three thousand or more I used to do routinely, but having a nice, relaxing weekend where I am actually able to get started writing and get caught up on things and have a clean home is a lovely way to start, don’t you think?

I certainly do.

I’m going to miss Game of Thrones when it ends, and I doubt very seriously I will ever go back and watch the entire series again. It’s a tempting thought, to be honest, to devote several months to rewatching it in full, from episode one to its conclusion, in one massive binge and think about what I am watching, in terms of what I know is going to happen and watching for possible foreshadowing. I’ve always loved history, and that’s part of why I love Game of Thrones so much; it’s kind of like history where you don’t know how it all ends. When I was a kid I used to redraw maps of Europe and create countries and change the way wars ended and try to create my own Eurocentric history of the world; who knew that what I was actually doing wasn’t simply a waste of time but rather an incredibly creative experiment in world building via alternative history. Every so often, when I’ve been caught up in a science fiction or fantasy epic series, I wonder at the world building/universe building creativity of the author and think I could never do that. I’ve always wanted to, but never have; but perhaps that was simply a failing of my own. Of course I could do it, but whether I could do it well would be an entirely different thing.

I don’t read as much science fiction and fantasy as I would like–I’ve always geared more towards crime and horror–but I’ve certainly read and enjoyed the Dune series, The Lord of the Rings, The Belgariad, The Shannara Chronicles, and Azimov’s science fiction novels about the robots and the empire and the Foundation, which wound up in the end all being one great big long series. There are writers out there now that I am looking forward to reading–I am not only diversifying the types of stories I read by race, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, and sexuality, but I am also trying to read more broadly across genres. Reading science fiction, fantasy, romance, even what is condescendingly called “chick lit”, and even some literary fiction will influence me and help make me a better writer in the long run. I read primarily for enjoyment, yes, but I also want to be a better writer, and reading different stories and different perspectives can only serve to make me a better writer.

I guess in reality when the show ends I won’t be saying goodbye completely to Game of Thrones; I still have the books to finish reading, and there will undoubtedly be spin-off shows–but seriously, is anyone at HBO listening? Your next big series should be Anne McCaffrey’s The Dragonriders of Pern. Her dragon books would be fantastic television, and for that matter so would Naomi Norvik’s (which I need to read; I started reading one a long time ago and was completely enthralled; something came up and I never finished and I never got back to it, and I’ve always regretted that).

I am also, in case you haven’t noticed, not only in that stage of writing where I never want to do it, have to force myself to do it, but when I finally do I am not happy with what I have done. I am completely convinced this book isn’t going to be what I want it to be, what I envisioned it to be, and its entirely due to my own various shortcomings as an author. It’s all part and parcel of the same neurosis, really; the endless cycle of Imposter Syndome, where you think you’ve somehow managed to con people for years that you can write but eventually the gig will be up and the marks you’ve been conning all along will finally wise up. This all too frequently translates I need to work today into what’s the point of writing? This book is shit, anyway, and no one is going to want to read it which very easily becomes let me get watch Youtube videos of Game of Thrones fan theories and listicles or highlights of exciting LSU football games or really hot well built muscular professional wrestlers or old music videos or clips from old episodes of All My Children–yes, those downward Youtube spirals can be quite frightening sometimes.

But I did make myself get those fourteen hundred words done today, even though I didn’t want to do it, even though I thought I should do three thousand, even though I currently think the words I wrote are crap and the chapter is crap and the character is two dimensional and I don’t know what I am doing, I FUCKING WROTE THOSE GODDAMNED WORDS TODAY.

And that’s fourteen hundred more words than I did yesterday, or Friday, or Thursday.

And I bet tomorrow I can do more than fourteen hundred.

Watch closely now.

What do I say to the God of Imposter Syndrome? NOT TODAY, MOTHERFUCKER, NOT TODAY.

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