And now it’s Sunday in the Lost Apartment, and I didn’t even go outside yesterday. Seriously, and it was lovely. I spent yesterday morning doing some organizing and planning and chores, and then dove into my edits. I emerged from the edits, bleary-eyed and more than a little bit tired, about five or six hours later and adjourned to my easy chair for some “be Scooter’s nap lap for a while” time and watched some videos on European royalty and some who were royalty-adjacent (Ivan VI of Russia, Diane de Poitiers, Elisabeth-Charlotte d’Orleans, duchess of Lorraine, and so forth) until Paul came home, and we streamed for the rest of the evening, which was nice and relaxing. Today I am going to finish the edits so it can be polished tomorrow before turning it in once and for all–huzzah!–and then the rest of the week I will undoubtedly have the “just finished a book for good” hangover and won’t get much else done. But I am already starting to feel that release of having a book finished; and my stress/anxiety levels have gone down significantly. I slept very well last night, which was also very nice and lovely, and I hope to do so again tonight–it’s been really nice getting all this sleep lately.
We watched Fire Island last night on Hulu, and I wasn’t horribly disappointed by it. I’ve seen few gay films–written, directed, produced and starring gay men– that weren’t disappointments; even the ones that come from traditional Hollywood inevitably I don’t care for very much. I never made it through Call Me by Your Name, for one example, and do not get me started on Philadelphia, In and Out, and To Wong Foo. But I enjoyed Fire Island, despite thinking I wouldn’t. I’ve actually never been to Fire Island–although I was invited to go for my birthday one year; their big Morning Party was actually on my birthday–but I was timid and shy and didn’t know how to get there from Tampa, because it involved trains and ferries and things, and I was also always broke in those days, and so I ended up not going. I’ve regretted it ever since…especially when I was writing Wicked Frat Boy Ways, which had a segment actually set on Fire Island. Anyway, I am digressing. I went into Fire Island kind of expecting it to be the same old gay story about Fire Island–I’ve read enough gay literary fiction either written or set in the 1970’s to have formed a strong impression about Fire Island–but the movie wasn’t what I was expecting. I was kind of expecting…I don’t know, another movie about beautiful and rich gay men with ripped bodies that didn’t go very deep, even if it was billed as a rom-com (I mean, a rom-com set on Fire Island?). But it was a lot more than what I was expecting; the characters the movie followed (a group of friends who all bonded and became kind of a family when they all worked at a horrible restaurant in Manhattan with “bottomless Mimosas”–that flashback scene might only be hilarious to former waiters, but it made both Paul and I laugh knowingly) were not rich for sure; the only reason they can afford to be there is they have a friend–a lesbian who won a lawsuit and got a shit ton of money and bought a house on the island, played by Margaret Cho–and there’s definitely some class issues played out in the movie, as well as issues of race. It was also nice to see some frankness about gay male sexuality. I won’t spoil the movie, but it wound up being deeply satisfying, had some really funny moments, and Bowen Yang is the emotional center of the movie–and he kills it. Fire Island may not be for everyone, but Paul and I really enjoyed it a lot more than we thought we would, and the island itself looks beautiful. I am far too old now to “do” Fire Island…but you can’t always do everything you want.
My, how philosophical I am after one cup of coffee this morning.
We also started watching a Spanish language show called Merli: Sapere Audi (Dare to Know), which is a sequel to a show called Merli about a philosophy teacher and ran for three seasons. This show focuses on one of the teacher’s best students, Pol, who is now studying at the University of Barcelona and is played by a really beautiful young actor named Carlos Cuervas, Pol is still in a relationship with Bruno, the son of his old teacher, and is still struggling to come to terms with his bisexuality (or homosexuality; I am not sure which it is), while developing a new relationship with his philosophy professor, who is played by Maria Pujalte, whom we have seen in numerous other shows; she is always great. It’s entertaining enough, and we’ll probably go ahead and finish it tonight. (I laughed because the opening shot of the show has Pol in the shower, with that shot being a close-up of his lovely ass. “Spain understands the gay market,” I laughed as we watched.) I’m not sure what we’ll watch when we finish this, but there are five more episodes so that will be a question for later this week, no doubt…I think the new, New Orleans based and filmed Queer as Folk will be dropping soon on HBO MAX, and we’ll probably watch that and Obi-wan Kenobi on Disney.
And we still haven’t watched all those Marvel shows, either.
I’ve been thinking–always a dangerous thing–lately about trying my hand at writing a gay romance. I’ve always avoided the genre because of it’s commitment to heteronormativity (which actually came up during Fire Island, which was kind of a knowing wink at the audience), but even before watching Heartstopper (I actually think Patrick/Ivan on Elité was when I first started thinking about it.). I even (of course) have a title for it, and was thinking it might be kind of fun to bring Jake from Bury Me in Shadows back and toss him a romance sequel. (I think my next Alabama may focus on his boyfriend Beau from Bury Me in Shadows….if I write another Alabama book. One never really knows.) But writing another book about Jake, or one about Beau would be kind of lazy since I already created them….but I also couldn’t write another book set in Corinth County and not acknowledge Beau…who was a cousin of the main character from Dark Tide, which did get mentioned. I don’t know. But as I put the finishing edits on my cozy mystery, I am thinking it might be fun and interesting to try something–a romance novel–that is completely outside of my wheelhouse. Sure I have to write Mississippi River Mischief, Chlorine and another project first; there’s all those novellas I have to finish as well as all those short stories; and of course, the essays.
No wonder I am so tired all the time…
My goal has been to write a first draft of Chlorine in May, and then a first draft of another project (Muscles) in June, spend July writing the short stories and novellas, and then move on to Mississippi River Mischief in August. I’m now thinking–inspired by these edits–that what I really need to do is spend the rest of this month working on the short stories and novellas as well as getting MRM started; it would be great to have a first draft of MRM completed by August 1, and then spend the next two months writing first drafts of the other projects before returning to MRM to finish by December 1. I think that’s not only workable but doable, but I also have to stay focused on the goal and not allow myself to either get lazy or distracted. I really also want to get back down to 200 pounds before Bouchercon; that may not be entirely realistic, but I can at least change the way the weight is distributed on my body somewhat by then–although back in the day, I generally started working on my Decadence body (ah, the days when it mattered so much to me to be in shape for certain weekends of the year!) around June…but my body has aged and changed since those days, and the metabolism has completely slowed down. But my body also craves exercise and stretching–I may do some stretching when I finish writing this, and before I start putting stuff away and cleaning prior to diving into the edits–and it certainly cannot hurt for me to start trying to make it to the gym three times per week again.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow morning.
One of my favorite lines from All About Eve is not, actually, one of the more popular or famous (infamous?) ones. It comes when Margo and Karen are stranded in the car on the way to the train station so Margo can make her curtain; they’ve run out of gas and Lloyd has gone for help (Margo doesn’t know Karen has drained the tank deliberately to punish Margo for–well, for being right about Eve all along), and they start talking. Margo turns on the car radio and music plays, and Bette Davis makes a patented Bette Davis sneer-face and turns it off, snapping, “I despise cheap sentiment.” I love that line, and use it whenever it feels appropriate.
I do feel it important to say that I don’t despise all sentiment, just the cheap, sappy kind. I used to love It’s a Wonderful Life, frankly, until I started really thinking about its message and how truly dark it actually is; now I love to fuck with people who still love it by called it the darkest Christmas noir ever put on film. But The Princess Bride and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast are still two of my favorite movies; and earned sentimentality, that arises from strong character development and a good story, still moves my heart and can make me cry a little bit.
Yes, I cry at movies and television shows; there are even songs that make me tear up a little bit, too. I know I project that I am deeply cynical–probably because, well, I am deeply cynical. People and systems have disappointed me far too many times for me to have a glowing opinion of humanity as a rule; my friend Victoria often accuses me of being a misanthrope–to which I always reply, “And I’m not wrong to be.” I do prefer to believe that most people are decent at heart, but there are just so many examples on the other side of the scales that it’s very hard to keep believing in the kindness of random strangers. (Just look at our current society and what is going on in the world even as I type this.)
So, I went into Heartstopper not expecting an awful lot. It looked cute from the brief previews I’d seen, and so I knew already it was about two teenaged boys falling in love and their friend group. I’ve often been disappointed by queer representation in films, television shows, and sometimes in books as well; I figured, despite the enormous popularity of the graphic novels this show was based on, that this would yet again be the case.
Boy, was I ever wrong.
I can honestly say I can’t remember the last time I was so completely charmed by a television series with gay characters–if ever. I have always been harshly critical of fictions targeted toward queer youth for any number of reasons; the primary one being a serious lack of authenticity in the ones I’ve read and/or watched. Some of them were so blatantly unrealistic I couldn’t even get past the third page, and even the ones I managed to hold my nose and get through were incredibly problematic and disappointing. I never got into Love, Victor because it seemed…well, phony to me. I can’t give any examples of why I reacted that way to the show, and believe me, I wish I could have watched more of it so I could (I may go back and do so at some point). So when I saw the first previews for Netflix’ Heartstopper, it looked adorable…but as I said, didn’t get my hopes up. I checked into it before watching and learned that it was based on a series of graphic novels that started as web cartoons, written by Alice Oseman, and I thought, well, be supportive and give it a chance. We were just coming off season 5 of Elite, which had thoroughly shocked and surprised me with the amazing storyline and arc they’d given the character of gay Patrick (who literally stole the entire season out from under the rest of the cast; it was a stunning performance by Manu Rios), and the thought that I might have another terrific show with gay characters and a romance was too much to pass up on. So, the Saturday before we went to New York, Paul and I queued up Heartstopper and…
We were both enchanted.
Heartstopper is just so sweet and lovely I felt my Grinch heart grow three sizes while watching it.
I even happy-cried several times per episode; so it’s like Ted Lasso and Schitt’s Creek in that way, but it also touched me deeply. I kept thinking, over and over again, how marvelous this show was; how beautifully written and acted and produced–and how lovely this would have been for fifteen year old me to have seen.
It’s like I don’t know who I am anymore.
It really is just so damned sweet and charming.
The queer rep I’ve seen in y/a novels–romance or not–has generally not been satisfying or engaging; I tend to raise my eyebrows and roll my eyes a lot–if I can even make it all the way through. But this….this was different somehow. Maybe because the actors playing the roles were the actual age they were playing? They just looked so young and innocent and sweet….which was perfect for this kind of show, really. It does make a difference when teenagers are played by teenagers, as opposed to actors in their twenties.
Charlie is the main character, who was accidentally outed by one of his friends the previous year and has suffered some bullying, which has left a few marks on his psyche. But it’s a new school year, some older boys put an end to the bullying, and he’s starting over in a way. On the first day of class he finds himself sharing a table in Form (what I guess we would call homeroom) with Nick, the big star of the school’s (Truham) rugby team. As they continue sitting next to each other, they slowly but surely start becoming more and more friendly with each other; enjoying each other’s company, etc. Charlie is also involved in a toxic relationship with Ben–who will meet him privately to make out, but only on his terms and when he wants it, and is also seeing a girl–that Charlie is trying to get out of. Ben tries to force himself on Charlie one day… Nick stops it, and then their friendship blossoms even more, with more texts and Nick proving himself to be a really good friend to Charlie, who is also developing a crush on Nick.
Nick is also starting to have feelings for Charlie that go deeper than “being mates”–so we see him looking stuff up on line about being gay.
Kit Conner, who plays Nick, plays the role so pitch-perfectly–the confusion of having feelings you’ve never had before, which upsets your entire worldview and everything you think you know about yourself (it wasn’t my experience, personally, but I’ve heard this from countless others) and being terrified to express it; afraid of what will happen when you admit it to yourself and start admitting it to others, and what it all means. He’s falling in love with Charlie, but what precisely does that mean?
His mother is brilliantly played by Olivia Colman, who is just such a treasure. One of the sweetest scenes in the entire show is after she’s met Charlie, and she comments on the friendship, “You’re more you when you’re around him. You’re different around your other friends. With Charlie, you’re you.”
Yes, it brought tears to my eyes–especially watching the emotions of what she means being processed in Nick’s mind and the lovely smile when he realizes that Charlie really sees him…and what THAT means.
It was also lovely seeing their relationship develop and blossom and grow–and that everyone is supportive and excited for them for the most part (yes, there’s some homophobic bullying, but not as much as one would expect, but it’s also dealt with strongly and doesn’t really hang over the show, either). There’s a young lesbian couple as well whose development and growth mirrors that of Nick and Charlie; a wonderful young trans character who has left the boys’ school and is now at the girls’ school, and a burgeoning romance for her as well–which I hope develops more in the next season.
But most importantly, the show is about acceptance and the sweetness of falling in love for the first time–and the usual obstacles that keep our adorable young couple apart aren’t heavy drama, and their suffering is more along the line of does he really like me? Am I his boyfriend?
It’s sweet, and adorable, and charming. As I said, I happy cried any number of times throughout the show…and the soundtrack is fantastic.
In fact, I am so obsessed with Heartstopper that the day after we watched I bought all four graphic novels and read them the following afternoon.
The show follows the books pretty closely, but they are just as adorable in the graphic novels as they are on the show. The graphic novels take a bit of a darker turn in the last couple of volumes than I would have liked, but the dark stuff is handled not only optimistically but in the same charming, loving, kind way the rest of the story is told.
Highly recommended. I am probably going to rewatch, too. It made me all warm inside, and shows like that–Schitt’s Creek and Ted Lasso and now Heartstopper–are necessary, especially in these dark times in which we live. Thank you, Alice Oseman, for the books, the story, and the characters. Highly recommended.
I could write about this show and the books forever, and may write more later…but I am going to go ahead and post this now.
Sunday morning and I slept in again, which was marvelous. I fell asleep in my chair last night while watching television, which makes me think that no matter what time I arise, ten is now my bedtime, and I am not really sure how I feel about that, to be completely honest. I welcome the good sleep, though, and the rested and refreshed feeling I’ve been experiencing in the mornings. Yesterday was a good day; I didn’t get nearly as much done as I wanted, but c’est la vie; such is life, and I did get things done. I worked on the kitchen, did some cleaning, working on my CV a bit more (more on that later), and laundered the bed linens (clean bed sheets and blankets always make sleep feel better for some reason I choose not to question). I did a load of dishes, cleaned some things out of the refrigerator that needed cleaning out, and organized some.
We rented Spider-Man: No Way Home yesterday and yes, I do think it was the best live action Spider-Man film (barring Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse, which was animated). The young cast (Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalan) are absolutely pitch-perfect; the concept of the story was actually good; and it was a sweeping epic that caught us up in the narrative. I hate to think this might be Tom Holland’s last go round as Spidey, frankly; I adore the kid, and have ever since his Lip-Sync Battle performance doing Rihanna’s “Umbrella” (that was what got me into the theater to see Spider-Man Homecoming, whichI didn’t care much about seeing before that clip won me over, and these three Tom Holland outings as my friendly neighborhood Spider-Man are my favorite Spidey live-action movies), and I hope this isn’t the end of this cast in these roles. I don’t know how the franchise can go on now, given the events of the movie, but in some ways it’s very true to the original comic books–Peter being alone and friendless. Tom Holland is also one of our best young actors; I’ve loved him in everything I’ve seen him in, even if the film itself was flawed. I’m sure he’s destined for a long and successful career, and he certainly has the money and success to focus only on projects that interest him as an actor; kind of like Daniel Radcliffe and the other kids from Harry Potter.
It would be a lovely place to be in as an actor, I would think.
After that, we switched over to Netflix to watch Heartstopper, a young adult gay romance series from Britain (with Olivia Colman in a very small party) and coming on the heels of season 5 of Elité, it was marvelous to see a love story between gay teens actually played by teens who weren’t perfect looking and beautiful. We deeply enjoyed this show, which was just incredibly sweet and adorable; how can you not fall in love with main character Charlie? How can you not empathize with him being mocked and bullied, yet despite this remaining first and foremost an incredibly kind and caring young man who loves his friends and wants to protect the people he loves from suffering the way he has suffered? It was apparently a graphic novel first, which was a bit of a surprise (I may have to go looking for it now; I definitely would read the novel if there was one) but a very pleasant one. It didn’t have any of the falseness or inauthenticity of other queer young adult fictions I’ve read and/or seen before; there was also lesbian representation as well as a very well rounded and developed trans character. It was so remarkably well done…I cried a couple of times. Rugby star Nick’s struggle to understand what he was feeling, and how to express himself in ways he’d never learned or thought about was also remarkably touching to see. I defy anyone to watch Heartstopper and these wonderful teens and not want to do everything in their power to protect them from hate and bullies–of which there is far too fucking much in the world, and has roared back lately thanks to the right wing hate machine. (It’s also been horrific watching people who consider themselves “allies” betraying us at every opportunity and turn…I’d forgotten how that felt, and frankly, I’ve cut people out of my life for far less than this…more on that later; I have been trying to compose a Julia Sugarbaker entry for several weeks now about the vicious political attacks on my community lately, but it’s not easy to do so without swearing vociferously and shredding people–mind you, they deserve it with both fucking barrels, but reason and logic is the best way to battle bigotry and hatred and garbage human beings.
I reserve the right to experience righteous anger and express it, though, because sometimes it is absolutely fucking necessary.
It’s weird that we’ve spent the weekend with superhero films, watching The Batman on Friday night and Spider-Man last night; we also started watching Severance last night, which I was also enjoying–my falling asleep during the second episode was more a result of my being tired more than anything else; I am going to rewatch it this morning while Paul sleeps–and there are several other shows I want us to get watching. We leave for New York on Tuesday, though–tonight and tomorrow night will be more about me packing and getting ready to head for the airport on Tuesday more than anything else; our flight is around noonish, I think–I need to double check, especially since I have to check us both in tomorrow–so we have time to drop Scooter off at the kitty spa before we have to head for the airport. (One of the things I need to do today is make sure I have everything I need, paperwork wise, for the trip–the car service from LaGuardia, the discount parking coupon for USPark, the confirmation number for the flights and the hotel)
Today I need to work on my story some more, do some more things, and get everything together that I need to get together before we leave town.
I’ve been updating my CV lately (something I’ve not done since 2009, and it wasn’t even really complete then) because I am doing a favor for a colleague (whom I also consider to be, at the very least, a friendly acquaintance) which requires me having an updated CV. As I was adding short stories, essays, articles, books and anthologies to the list, I began to realize why precisely people refer to me as prolific (which I always just smile and shrug off). The damned thing is already seven pages long, and I’ve not included everything–old books reviews, author interviews, columns, etc.–and there are some things I wrote for websites that I am no longer able to locate or remember (if it’s not in print, the chances I won’t remember it expand exponentially) and really, it doesn’t need to be that exact for this purpose; but it does make me think I really do need to, at some point, make sure every single thing I’ve ever written is included in my CV. I mean, it already looks impressive; I can only imagine how long it will be once it is as complete as I can make it. I mean, I wrote a fitness column every two weeks for IMPACT News and later for Window Media, for at least four years. That’s well over a hundred columns right there…not to mention all the book reviews I used to do. I think I have produced millions of words over the course of when I first started writing professionally all the way back in 1996 in Minneapolis, which was really when my writing career began; so I’ve been at this now for over twenty-six years, which is kind of amazing, really.
And perhaps it’s best for me to head into the spice mines now, so I can get a jump on the day. Have a happy Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will chat with you again tomorrow.
WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD FOR EVERY SEASON OF ELITE.
One of the most moving moments during Left Coast Crime came during Raquel V. Reyes’ acceptance speech for Best Humorous Mystery for Mango, Mambo, and Murder. Raquel spoke very eloquently about her love for the crime fiction genre, and why it was so important for her to write a Latina sleuth heroine in her series: “Representation matters,” she emphasized, her voice breaking a little bit. This naturally got me to thinking about representation and its importance. It reminded me of the weird little boy in Chicago (and later, in the suburbs and on the plains of Kansas) who believed he was so weird, unnatural, and anything but normal; and how those rare appearances of gay men in fiction–scattered here and there in paperbacks–meant so much to me and made me feel, even if just for a moment, that I wasn’t strange and weird and an outsider. There were people like me out there somewhere, and maybe, just maybe, someday I’d find them and my community and feel like, finally, I belonged somewhere.
I was thinking about this very thing as Paul and I binged our way through Season 5 of our favorite show, Elité, on Netflix recently (the new season dropped while I was in Albuquerque).
I don’t remember how, when, or why Paul and I started watching Elité, but I am so glad we did. I know it was pre-pandemic, because I do remember both of us being concerned about when the fourth season would drop and whether it would be delayed because of the pandemic. But regardless of when we started watching, this Spanish-language Gossip Girl type show (far, far superior to Gossip Girl, sorry, stans, don’t @ me) really captured our imaginations and we became full fledged addicts. (The best way to describe the show is as a terrific hybrid of Gossip Girl and How to Get Away with Murder, yet better than both). I think part of it was the great cast–everyone was not only gorgeous, but they were remarkably talented as well, and the writing/plotting/story construction was superb; take note, American television series. I also greatly enjoyed the Ander/Omar romance, which began with both deeply closeted and meeting guys on hook-up apps, which is how they met. They began building a relationship, coming out to friends and family–it didn’t go well with Omar’s Palestinian parents–and their romance was given equal weight to that of their straight cast members; I don’t recall many shows where that happens. It was handled very well, and they literally became one of the show’s “super couples”, to borrow a daytime soap term. Fans loved them, and their romance was handled so beautifully that I was impressed, all the way from the terrors of the closet to fears about acceptance to actually coming out and developing a romance, with all the drama and upheavals young straight couples usually have to deal with. Omar and Ander were no different from any other romantic couple on the show; their story was just as important as the others, and there was never any sense of “oh they’re just pandering because we’ll always watch something with gay representation on it.”
And it wasn’t just Omar and Ander, either. Polo and Carla were in a long-term relationship since they were children; deeply in love and yet somehow bored with each other, both found themselves attracted to sexy new student Cristian; and that progressed from Polo watching Cristian and Carla together to joining them! Polo’s sexuality became a bit more murky than it was at the beginning. Is he bisexual, pan, or are they all three polyamorous? Carla and Polo end up breaking up and Cristian left the show after a tragic accident; but the intricacies and intrigues from their long-term relationship continued to play out and affect their storylines as well as others along the way. A lesbian romance was introduced into season 4, as well as a new villainous gay character, whose entire purpose was simply to be rebellious against his father and try to come between Omar and Ander. Played by the strikingly beautiful Manu Rios, I liked the idea of a manipulative gay villain (think Erica Kane as a gay man), but hoped they would flesh him out more. I felt Manu Rios was more talented than the material they were giving him, and hoped that in Season 5 we’d get to know him better.
(There are many other reasons I love the show–the other characters are also incredibly well developed, and their behavior fits their characters as they’ve developed along the way; no one ever acts in a way that doesn’t feel realistic simply to suit a story-line, something else American show runners should pay attention to.)
Season 5 literally dropped the Friday night I was in Albuquerque, and as soon as I got back to New Orleans, Paul and I started watching, and binged the entire season in like two nights. Season 4 wasn’t as good as the first three seasons (the bar was set high, to be fair), but it was also a transitional season; at least half of the cast graduated at the end of season three and thus left the show–which I thought was probably a good thing, despite losing some absolute favorite characters from those earlier seasons. Season 4 transitioned the story as the show added new cast members to replace those who’d left; so we didn’t enjoy it as much as we could have (more original cast members departed at the end of season 4) and so I was worried that Season 5 wouldn’t be as good, either…but I am delighted to report I was totally wrong on that score. -With Season 5, the show is back at the incredibly high level/standard it set for itself in those first three seasons, and while it is very hard to compare the one season with the interconnected stories of those first three, I don’t know. Season 5 might just be my favorite.
And of course, now that we’ve seen Season 5, the stage has been set for a very strong new, sixth season, and I literally cannot wait.
But the primary strength of this most-recent season comes from the further development of the character of Patrick, played by the stunningly beautiful young actor Manu Rios, through a truly terrific storyline that let us see sides of Patrick we’ve not seen before.
I mean, look at that stunning face.
The body isn’t too shabby, either.
Patrick joined the cast of characters, as I mentioned, in season 4. The openly gay character was primarily brought in as an agent of chaos: self-absorbed, narcissistic and rebelling against his strict father (the new principal), his role in season 4 was primarily to cause drama and disruption between the long-running gay romance storyline between Omar and Ander (again, and it can’t be said enough, how lovely was the Omar/Ander storyline, where a gay couple in a soapy show got the kind of story usually reserved for opposite sex teen couples?), so he was kind of a villain character–striking out angrily whenever he was hurt but inevitably causing more trouble for himself than for others, but the role was played with such sensitivity and style by Manu Rios that we as viewers couldn’t hate him the way we should have, the way we wanted to; since he was really “the other guy” and causing trouble between the already fraught Ander/Omar relationship we were all rooting for. Patrick was really nothing more than the latest obstacle to their happily ever after; but when Ander also left the show after season four, I wondered if Patrick and Omar would pick back up–it didn’t seem likely, but they were the gay characters, so…
And even I didn’t fully appreciate how talented Manu Rios was during season four–but that changed in a matter of moments in Season 5. I mean, I could see he was beautiful–anyone with eyes can see that–but could he turn what was essentially a one-note character into someone who seemed perfectly real to the viewers?
The answer was yes yes a thousand times yes.
You see, there’s a new student at Las Encinas in season 5, who catches Patrick’s eye on his first day: Ivan Carvalho, played by André Lamoglia.
This picture doesn’t do him justice in the least, either. He’s beautiful. And the way his face lights up when he smiles–utterly irresistible. (Lamoglia is also a remarkably good actor.) His father is a world-famous soccer player, Cruz Catalho, and there’s no sign or mention of Ivan’s mother. But Cruz lives the good life of the hard-partying rich superstar, often telling his uptight son–who’s moved around the world following his father’s career, unable to make lasting friends or set down roots anywhere as a result–to loosen up. Ivan just wants a normal life–with Cruz always telling him to relax and enjoy the great life Cruz is able to provide for him.
And the character is so kind and loving and understanding…it’s easy to see why Patrick would not only be attracted to him for his looks but drawn to him as a person. He sees Patrick in a way no one else ever has before. It’s impossible not to root for them to fall in love with each other.
Ivan first comes to Patrick’s attention when he is looking for directions to the high school locker room–which, at the time, didn’t strike me as odd but now looking back, it kind of does; he was in his gym clothes and in need of a shower, but I SUPPOSE that it’s entirely possible he could have gotten turned around–new school and all, I guess. Immediately interested and attracted to this handsome stranger, Patrick not only gives him directions but offers to take him there “since I was on my way there anyway.” They talk as they shower–but Ivan is onto Patrick; after the shower he points out with a smile, “you just wanted to shower with me to see me naked” he teases, pointing out Patrick’s arousal. As I mentioned, Ivan is breathtakingly gorgeous. When he smiles, you can’t do anything but melt. And yet, the two boys have undeniable chemistry.
But Ivan is straight. He keeps telling Patrick this, over and over again, but…
We actually first meet Ivan as he is getting ready for school, climbing over the passed out bodies in the living room to see if his father will drive him to school. Instead, Cruz winds up hugging the toilet and telling Ivan to take the car. During his first initial meeting with Patrick, Ivan definitely points out that he isn’t gay, but he’s not put off by Patrick’s sexuality, either. They can be friends–but that’s all it’s going to be. He knows Patrick is attracted to him, and he’s a bit of a tease; sending mixed signals that confuse and anger Patrick.
This, too, is an old trope of a story, and I was really not overly thrilled with it; it’s clichéd and one of the tired old reasons the homophobes trot out whenever they want to deny us our rightful place in society and culture: we want to convert everyone.
Because it’s just that easy.
But at the same time, Patrick’s desperate crush on his new straight best friend isn’t played as exploitative. There’s more there than just him being a cocktease, really; Ivan clearly cares very deeply for Patrick, and their friendship means a lot to him. He cares, and this is a new experience for Patrick; he isn’t used to anyone genuinely caring for him. He’s a disappointment to his father, he loves his sisters but those relationships are very tense, and he really just wants to be loved. So the fact that he has found someone who genuinely loves him is confusing; he loves being loved, but he is also strongly attracted to Ivan, in love with him (at one point Ivan teases him, “you’ve fallen for me”) and isn’t sure how to react or behave or what. Ivan is attracted also to Patrick’s sister Ari–and the heartbreak when Patrick sees them together is completely believable; and it’s all done in his incredibly expressive face. After seeing Ivan and Ari having sex on a boat on the lake…heartbroken Patrick goes back to the dock and sits there, hating himself and hating his life. While he’s sitting there, Ivan’s father Cruz comes out there–they’ve already had a couple of run ins already, and Patrick is on to the fact that Cruz isn’t as straight as he acts–and as Cruz comforts Patrick–they begin to kiss!
Did. Not. See. That. Coming.
At the time, I was rather impressed with the writing, frankly. What better set-up for drama than having Patrick, in love with Ivan, wind up in a relationship with Ivan’s dad? (Yes, aware of the creepiness of an adult man sleeping with a high school student; yet I still thought it make an interesting story.) But the writers are even more clever than that.
Patrick winds up comforting Ivan after his brief little fling on the water with Ari–who no longer wants to even speak to him–and the two boys go back to the Carvalho household. Cruz isn’t happy with this–he has his own developing feelings for Patrick, so he acts homophobic, but privately he invites Patrick to join him later after Ivan falls asleep. Later, when Patrick cleans up before bed and walks into Ivan’s room, he sees Ivan watching porn and they come oh-so-close again to something physical happening…but Ivan pulls aways again. Frustrated and hurt AGAIN, Patrick goes to the guest room. While watching porn on his phone and masturbating, he gets a text from Cruz asking is Ivan asleep yet? Hating himself but hurt AND horny, Patrick gets up to go join Cruz–but when he walks out of the guest room Ivan is there in the hallway.
IVAN: I can’t sleep.
PATRICK: Count sheep.
IVAN: No, no, I want you to come back to my room with me.
PATRICK: You need to stop. I am going to get really angry with you.
IVAN: I can’t stop thinking that…what if…because of prejudice or fear or something…what if I am missing out on something amazing…with someone amazing…who makes me feel amazing.
Ivan then tries to kiss Patrick, but awkwardly. Patrick pushes him away, and Ivan apologizes. “I’m sorry, I’m just really nervous but I want this.”
The look on Patrick’s face literally made me tear up as he said, “No, let me.” And then they kiss. When Patrick pulls away he says, “Are you okay?”
Ivan smiles and just nods, and the two boys go back to Ivan’s room.
What followed was the most amazing slightly longer than five minutes gay sex scene I’ve ever seen outside of gay porn. But it wasn’t raunchy (it’s definitely not gay porn); it was sensual and beautiful and erotic; an expression of love between two young men who’ve never been really in love before. It wasn’t all candlelight and roses; it was Ivan’s first time (at one point, he’s doing oral on Patrick for the first time, and Patrick stops him–“watch the teeth!” I defy anyone to find a gay man who has never said that or had that said to him once in his life. ) and while i know rimming scenes have become more commonplace on cable shows, I’ve never seen two males do it as realistically as it was done here. Patrick allows Ivan to top him, and even that was realistic, honest, authentic. The entire thing was beautifully shot and scored (EDIT: the song playing in the background is Brian Eno’s “By the River,” which is beautiful and perfect for this scene), and the acting was fucking fantastic (the pun was deliberate). I literally got tears in my eyes.
There were three more episodes in the season after this–with ups and downs and more pain and heartache for the two–but it all comes together in the incredible season finale, which again left me in tears.
This entire season could have simply focused on Patrick and Ivan’s story, and I would have been happy. But the other storylines of the season–which didn’t seem all that great in the first half–coalesced in the second half of the season, with twists and surprises and suspense; this show is fantastic at surprise twists that make you gasp.
But this story…wow. How much of a difference would it have made in my life to have seen something like this play out on a television series when I was a teenager? Even in my early twenties? Both young actors are fantastic. The acting is stellar, and I have to admit it’s one of the few times I’ve seen a gay storyline play out like this where I was absolutely 100% convinced they were in love with each other, was rooting for them, wanted them to end up together against all the odds.
Manu Rios and André Lamoglia steal the fifth season right out from under the rest of the cast–which is no small feat, as Elité’s biggest strength has always been its incredibly talented cast.
I loved this show already, but I love it all the more now. I have no idea what they are going to do with Ivan and Patrick for the next season; but whatever it is, I am here for it…and so are the rest of the fans of the show around the world. (Yes, I did a deep dive the other day on-line; Patrick and Ivan and their story are the breakout stars of season 5…as they should be.)
This has been a not-good, no good week and here’s hoping it was an aberration and everything is going to reset right now and become something more resembling what passes for normality around here lately. Everything has been out of sync and/or messed up all week, and frankly it’s also kept me from getting anything done or making progress on any number of things I need to be making progress on, which as you can imagine is incredibly fucking annoying.
Today I am going to make a run to the mailbox and to drop off some books for the library sale, as well as do some other clean-up around here. I’ve decided the next book I am going to read is Bayou Book Thief by Ellen Byron (I am interviewing her next month for the book release at Blue Cypress Books in Riverbend) and I may as well get a jump on that, maybe come up with some questions for her ahead of time so I am not just winging it the night of–she definitely deserves to have a prepared interviewer, not the usual “I’ll make it up as I go” bullshit I always, inevitably fall back on whenever I have to do something of this sort. (Yes, that’s me: a thorough publishing professional.)
I slept deeply and well last night–I allowed myself to stay in bed until nearly eight o’clock–and as such I feel pretty rested and good this morning. I actually feel like I may even be able to get things accomplished this morning, which is a lovely change. I have to admit I’ve been concerned and worried about the depths and extent of my exhaustion lately, but this morning I feel good for the first time in a long while. Good thing, since the house is a disaster area; I am going to definitely be spending time on the Lost Apartment and the office area today cleaning and organizing and getting everything back under control around here. I am going to try to get that story written today, and some other odds and ends. With luck, I’ll be able to get it all out of the way and handled today before I run out of gas or the lazies set in; which is of course inevitable. But really, this mess is untenable, and I am more than a little annoyed I’ve allowed things to get to this point YET AGAIN. Yet I cannot deny that I was tired and worn out all week; it felt like I was sleeping well but obviously I must not have been, given how little I was able to get done all week.
C’est la vie, I suppose.
We finished watching Captive Audience on Hulu last night, about the tragedies of the Staynor family–perhaps best known as the I Know My First Name is Stephen story. We moved to the San Joaquin Valley (Fresno, to be exact) when I was only nineteen; the story was still news even then, and I became fascinated by the story–a fascination that never went away and was only made more intense by Stephen’s tragic death at a very young age and even more intense by the fact his older brother became a serial killer, responsible for the Yosemite Murders. I had already moved away from the valley by then, but I’ve never stopped being fascinated by the story of the Stayner family and have always wanted to write about it–that horrific family dynamic of having one of your children stolen for seven years, and then having him return as an older, complete stranger. How does that affect the family dynamic? (Obviously, in this case, it turned one of them into a serial killer somehow.) How does the victim deal with returning to the family that isn’t what he remembers anymore, either? What’s it like to be the mom, the dad, the sisters, the neighbors? I recommend the docu-series–it’s in three parts–and it’s even more fascinating than I could have imagined; they also interviewed Stephen’s children. His daughter remembers him vaguely, his son not at all…and that’s an even greater tragedy. What is it like to lose your father when you are so young–traumatizing in and of itself–and then find out what he had been through? To find out an uncle you barely knew was responsible for the monstrous Yosemite Murders? There’s so much material there for fiction…I think about what Megan Abbott or Carol Goodman or Laura Lippman or any of our modern day great women writers could do with any bit of that story and can’t help but wonder about what might be. Maybe I’ll use it as the foundation for a book someday…but it’s one of those stories I always end up circling back to periodically, which makes me think it’s more likely to happen than any one of the great ideas that holds my attention for a day or two, write down or make a folder for, and then completely forget about.
Ah, being a creative. Always challenging.
I also want to, at some point this weekend, finish my blog post I’ve been writing about season 5 of Elité, and I also have another book review to write for here. Always, forever, so much to do at all times. Heavy heaving sigh.
And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Saturday however you choose to spend it, Constant Reader.
I took today off for appointments, and as is my usual wont, tried to cram in as many as possible on the same day to save paid time off. So far today I’ve been to the West Bank, the North Shore, and Metairie, but am now safely home and ready to kick it back and get to work on this massive to-do list I somehow have managed to avoid for most of the weekend. (I justified my utter and complete laziness this weekend on being home for the weekend and it being my first weekend at home after a trip; justification can always be found, frankly. I have a PhD in it, methinks, or at least should) But I feel relatively good, despite having to get up so early this morning for the trip to the West Bank (oil change at my dealership, before a trip out to the North Shore and…well, you already know the rest). I took along Eli Cranor’s stunning debut novel, Don’t Know Tough, to read in various waiting rooms, and it is actually a most marvelous read. I finished Marco Carocari’s Blackout over the weekend, which was also a lovely read, and we did a lot of binge-watching. We finished watching Why Didn’t They Ask Evans, which we rather enjoyed, and then moved on to get caught up on Servant, which is actually rather disturbing yet compulsively watchable.
I did manage to get some writing done this weekend–I really don’t know why it is like pulling teeth these days, but it is, and I guess I just have to learn how to live with that, really. I did have an easier time with the first draft of a first chapter that was more of a “let me try this, I’ve been thinking about this project for a really long time and since nothing else seems to be flowing, it can’t hurt…” but that’s not what I need to be worrying about at the moment, is it? I really need to get this short story finished, and I don’t know why I am having so much trouble with it here, to be honest. It’s got a great title, it’s an interesting idea, and I just have to get the tone and voice perfectly right for it to work…but I don’t know if I am having imposter syndrome symptoms or what, but this story has really been a struggle for me.
Who knows? Maybe now that I’ve admitted it publicly, maybe the story will start flowing when I get back to it today. One can certainly hope, at any rate…I’ve also been trying to write an entry about the fifth season of Elité, with little success. It is probably one of my favorite shows of all time–and after a disappointing fourth season, it was great seeing the writers and producers kick the show back into that high gear it operated under its first three seasons. Season 4, to give credit where it’s due, was not going to be an easy one to pull off; replacing the characters that left the show in the wake of Season 3 (Polo, Lu, Carla, and Nadia) wasn’t going to be easy, and the new characters were basically made the focal point of the show in season 4 when we didn’t really know much about them. I did give them a break–it’s hard to introduce so many new characters into a cast and integrate them into existing storylines while giving them their own–but it was still a bit disappointing. Season 5 spring-boarded off season 4, though, and much of the drama in the new season had its roots in the past season…but they did a much better job integrating the new characters–Ivan, Isadora, Cruz, and Balil–then they did the new characters in Season 4. (Okay, well, they kind of forgot about Balil in the final episodes–I don’t think we even saw him again after the body turned up in Episode 4, and Omar didn’t really have much of a story; so I am thinking he is one of those not returning for season 6)
But I will say this: episode 5 of season 5 of Elité has one of the most erotic and authentic gay sex scenes I’ve ever seen on television or in film; it’s almost borderline porn. It was so lovingly and beautifully shot; the soundtrack music was perfect; and it brought tears to my eyes. (Similar to the scene in It’s a Sin when the main character is about to bottom for the first time and his partner tells him he needs to wash up first–I laughed and got teary-eyed; both scenes will certainly be talked about should I ever teach another erotica writing class or workshop) I know, I know, I’ve been screaming to the clouds about Elité since we first started watching it way back in the Before Times.
Heavy heaving sigh.
And now I am going to head back into the spice mines and see if I can’t get a draft of that story finished today. Wish me luck, Constant Reader–I’ll let you know tomorrow how it went.
So, today I am heading north for Thanksgiving. It’s an eleven hour drive both ways, give or take, depending on variables (bathroom breaks, lunch, gas stops, traffic, etc.) but I have Azimov’s Foundation queued up on Audible to listen to on the drive up (watching the show gave me an itch to revisit the books. It’s been years since I read the original trilogy, which I owned in one of those all-in-one compendiums. At the time, there were only the three; much as there was only a Dune trilogy when I read the books in high school). It’s going to be far colder up there than I would prefer, which means I won’t be going outside very much, or at least as little as possible.
Also, the thing I hate most–heat. Okay, I can hear the puzzled thoughts in your mind–but you live in New Orleans! How can you hate heat? Hang on, I will explain.
I don’t like indoor heat when it’s cold outside. It always feels somewhat suffocating and stale to me, and it inevitably affects my sinuses (sinii?) and everything else and it just kind of makes me feel dried out; like a turkey in the oven without being basted properly. Air conditioning doesn’t have that same effect, which is why I prefer to live in a more tropical climate where we don’t need to run the heat that often or that much (last winter being a horrible exception; I will never forget that freezing fat Tuesday when we didn’t have heat).
I obviously finished reading Leslie Budewitz’ Guilty as Cinnamon, and I will probably get started on Donna Andrews’ Owl Be Home For Christmas tonight in Kentucky before going to bed. I am planning on leaving here around eight this morning, which will have me arriving at my parents’ house around eight this evening EST. It’s a lovely drive, and as I mentioned, I will be listening to Azimov’s Foundation on the way up there and the next Donna Andrews Friday on my drive home (I am almost caught up on the series!). I did some writing yesterday, but not nearly enough–we turned on the Saints game for a little while before switching back to Gossip Girl, bingeing through the rest of what was available on HBO MAX (the second half of the first season will drop while I am in Kentucky) and then we decided to give the original a whirl, and while we only had time for two episodes before I had to go to bed…we are hooked and will watch all six seasons. So, at least we know what we’ll be watching next weekend when I come home. It’s fun; the reboot reminds me of Elité–with a three-way romance hinted at, just like there was there was on the first season of that show (at one point Paul said, “I think the producers or writers must have watched Elité”), and I have to say, this is one reboot I am definitely on board with.
It definitely fills in the void of glossy melodramatic soap with lovely young people I’d been feeling.
I’m not sure how regularly I am going to be able to post here until I get back home–my primary focus for the week is going to be spending time with my family, reading, and trying to get some writing done every day, which means this isn’t going to be a priority, alas, and rather than writing here while drinking coffee every morning and waking up I’ll be hanging with my family, but I am also hoping the time away from the Internet–emails, social media, blog–will help reboot my brain somewhat (I am also hoping to have the opportunity to get sorted a bit more while I am away; trips like the last one tend to make me more scattered because rest and relaxation aren’t in the cards the way they are when I visit family) and motivate me to get more things done as I move forward with my life. The rest of this year is going to be frantic–trying to get the book finished, preparing for the release of the next, the holidays–but it’s definitely do-able.
So, if you email me this week, I may not get to it as quickly as I would like (although I have to admit I am not as timely with responding to emails as I have been in the past), but I will get to it–I am going to be buried enough when I get back without having to answer a gazillion emails on top of everything else.