Diamond Girl

So, how you doin’, Constant Reader?

Well, running the errands yesterday turned into a major challenge. It started raining before I left the house, but despite the heavy rain–those enormous big raindrops we get here in New Orleans, that feel like they’re leaving a bruise–I decided to go for it. I grabbed an umbrella and dashed to the car, getting soaked in the process despite the umbrella (the umbrella that can handle the rain in New Orleans has yet to be invented), and the rain came down even heavier as I headed uptown. At Jefferson Avenue, there was still blue sky and sunshine and no clouds, but while I was inside the postal service the storm arrived (I got some things I needed in the mail, some bills, and an ARC of Alex Marwood’s The Poison Garden, thanks, Erin!) and dashed back out to the car and headed to the grocery store. It was pouring by this point, with thunder and lightning and everyone driving three miles an hour–but in fairness, the street gutters were filling with water. I sat in the car and waited a good five minutes before making a break for the store–but even walking quickly I still got very wet.

But at least while I was doing the shopping the rain let up a bit, and it was only sprinkling as I went out to the parking lot.

Getting home was a challenge as some streets had filled up with water; Felicity Street had a good six inches at least on it, and the gutters on Prytania were also full of water, but it wasn’t that deep. Everyone was driving, of course, like their car was about to drop into a sinkhole and disappear from sight–of course, driving slow rather than faster won’t change that at all, so I don’t really get it. Yes, you should drive slower through standing water–but you don’t have to literally crawl through it, either–and yes, local New Orleanians reading this, I know there are no-wake ordinances in the city (yes, that’s how often our streets flood with water; the city has passed ordinances dictating how fast you can drive through standing water), but when most of the street is not underwater, there’s no wake sending water into people’s homes, businesses or cars parked alongside the street.

It’s interesting that my neighborhood sort-of flooded again–the water on my street had been over the sidewalk but had drained by the time I got home; I could see the dirt and debris on the sidewalk–when it didn’t used to; and there are people alarmed in the city because we are seeing water rising and standing where it never used to before. It occurred to me yesterday that this could entirely be because of all the construction that’s taken place in the city over the last few years. Empty green lots are now paved over for buildings or parking garages; city blocks that used to simply be a ground level parking lot are now five story apartment/condo buildings. So the water used to spread out over the paved lots and also used to soak into the green lots; now that water is draining off those buildings with nowhere to go so it settles in the street. The two vacant lot on our street are about to be paved over and turned into a three story condo complex–which isn’t going to help our street in upcoming rains.

I seriously doubt that anyone–especially on the city permit level–ever took water drainage into consideration when handing out permits. Driving down O’Keefe Street now in the CBD is like driving down a canyon through higher-rising buildings, whereas before those lots were parking lots. I wonder if I am onto something here…

I spent the day yesterday, after getting home, working on getting my email down to a respective amount, and I also started reading Jay B. Law’s The Unfinished, for which I have agreed to write an introduction for the new edition being released by ReQueered Tales. Laws only wrote two books before he died of AIDS in the early 1990’s, this one and Steam, which is one of my favorite horror novels of all time. The Unfinished was released after his death, and isn’t as well-known or well-remembered as Steam; being a posthumous novel undoubtedly had something to do with that. I thought I had read it years ago, but as I am reading it now, it’s all new to me…and while I am well aware that my memory is as reliable now as the water drainage system in New Orleans, this entire story and the character seem completely new to me; usually when I reread a book I’ve completely forgotten the story eventually comes back to me as I work my way through it–that isn’t happening here, and while it saddens me that I’ve not read The Unfinished before, I am actually kind of glad; it means I am experiencing an immensely talented writer’s final work for the first time…and the essay I want to write to introduce the book is already beginning to swirl around inside my head.

Today I have a million things to do–so much writing and editing to do, as well as reading–that it’s not even remotely amusing–although sometimes I do think all I can do, rather than weep when looking at the list, is laugh.

Along the lines of my recent decision to celebrate and own my accomplishments, as an addendum to today’s blog I am going to talk about having a story in Murder-a-Go-Go’s, the Planned Parenthood fundraising anthology from Down and Out Books, edited by Holly West. I’ve loved the Go-Go’s from the first time I heard “Our Lips Are Sealed” on the radio, and have seen them in concert twice. Since I recently discovered the magic of Spotify, I find myself listening to their original three albums a lot lately, and the music doesn’t seem dated at all to me, which I think is the key to their success. One of the things I found interesting was I never listened to their music, or sang along to it, and thought about how dark their lyrics actually are, until Holly agreed to let me write something for this anthology (I basically invited myself to contribute to it, which is something I never do; which is another problem with myself and my career–I don’t assert myself or push myself forward into anthologies. The worst thing that can happen is the editor will say, ‘sorry, got enough people already, but thanks!’ My entire career I’ve worked to make rejection less painful and more of an oh well thing; I’m still working on making that sort of rejection/disappointment something that just rolls off my back rather than derails me for a time.

Sometimes you have to be assertive, and while that sort of thing kind of goes against my nature, you have to do it.

Anyway, Holly gave me a choice of three songs to use for inspiration, and as I looked up the lyrics on-line, I was struck by how dark the songs were. Without Belinda Carlisle’s cheerful, almost chipmunk-ish vocals and the high-energy beat of the music behind them, I couldn’t believe how noir the lyrics actually were. I eventually chose “This Town”–because it was the darkest of the three–and started writing it. I honestly don’t know how the idea came to me, or where I came up with it, but it turned out to be one of my favorite stories of my own; and other people seemed to like it a lot, too. “This Town” will probably wind up anchoring my next short story collection–should I do another one, which I am hopeful I will be able to do–and again, as I said, the feedback on the story has been so overwhelmingly kind and generous that as per usual, I didn’t really know how to respond to the compliments.

The story itself is the perfect illustration of what I think, in my mind, a crime story should be; which is why my work isn’t accepted into places like Ellery Queen or Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazines; I don’t necessarily solve a crime in my stories, even though they are about crimes. (Of course, it could also be that the stories I send them aren’t in their best shape, either.) Getting a story into Alfred Hitchcock is a bucket list item of mine, and I’d also love to get another story into Ellery Queen, but I digress.

Okay, I should get back into the spice mines if I want to get anything done today.

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That Lady

Thursday, the aftermath of Wicked Weather Wednesday.

It looks beautiful outside, and it’s only eighty degrees this morning; it was also very cool after yesterday’s flooding thunderstorm. Barry,  should he turn into Barry, is projected to hit Saturday afternoon; the storm surge up the river is concerning. The river is already high and has been at flood stage for almost the entire year; the Army Corps of Engineers say the surge won’t overtop the levees initially, but now it seems there are some levees that may happen to–none around uptown New Orleans and my neighborhood, but further down river, like the lower 9th and some on the west bank. I’m not entirely certain I trust the Army Corps of Engineers, frankly; they also told us the levees wouldn’t fail due to Katrina. One would assume they’ve learned from their enormous mistakes, but then again…so I am not sure if we’re going to leave or not. I guess we’ll wait and see what happens with tomorrow. I hate waiting to the last minute like that, but I also don’t want to leave if it isn’t necessary.

This is the quandary we find ourselves in–it’s very easy for those who don’t live here to be critical of our decision-making processes down here when faced with a storm coming in; but when you haven’t been in that situation and you don’t live somewhere under constant threat of storms and flooding…you really don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about and please, have all the fucking seats.

I unfriended someone yesterday on Facebook for showing his stupid ass about New Orleans and flooding; it wasn’t someone I have ever met in person, and as a straight white male “author” (I used quotation marks because I’ve never read him or any of his books; I doubt seriously that a straight white male Yankee from a small rural town in New England sent me a friend request as a reader–more like it was a networking request, really) who also went ahead and admitted in the comments on his post that he’s never been to New Orleans and knows nothing about the city other than it floods periodically…yeah, go fuck yourself. His post was a link to an article about the flooding here, with his own editorialization of Keep insisting this place is livable, even though it’s so obviously not. What kind of idiot do you have to be to keep insisting on living somewhere this happens regularly?

I thought about pointing out that without the port of New Orleans, the entire Mississippi River waterways and tributaries would be closed to international commerce, including the oil that heats his stupid fucking house in Maine in the winter time; that shutting down the system would cause an economic and stock market crash, and the cost of some things–including bananas, coffee, and gasoline–would at the very least double; and the Midwestern farmers, already so heavily hit by tariffs and trade wars, would be ruined.

Does anyone remember what happened to the cost of gas after the one-two punch of Katrina and Rita interrupted the flow of oil?

And then I figured, why should I waste my time on a douchebag whom I don’t know, will never meet, and never convince? It was ever so much easier to simply unfriend and block the trash. So I did, and it felt glorious.

The river is both our lifeline and our curse.

I did take the time to explain to a friend yesterday that flooding in New Orleans does occur fairly regularly–yesterday’s seven to nine inches in less than three hours was more than the pumping system could handle; in fact, any city getting that much rain in that short a period of time would flood and they don’t have pumping systems like ours. The flood waters were gone within two hours of the rain stopping. The advent of social media and smart phones with cameras also has changed the way things are perceived; before social media and camera-phones a flood like yesterday’s would have been maybe a ninety-second segment on the news, perhaps a three minute segment on the 24 hour channels. Before Katrina, flooding in New Orleans wasn’t even news, really. Yesterday’s was unusual in that it was the first time since 1995 that my neighborhood actually took on flood water; the last flood, almost two years ago this August, we didn’t even have an inch of water on our street. But I flooded my car back in 1997 when I was caught in a flash flood when the city got five inches of rain in about an hour; there was an inch of water in the streets when I left work but by the time I got home Camp Street was a river. It cost me about $600 for my car to be operational again, and that car was never really the same again afterwards. I was incredibly lucky that the only available place to park when I got home Tuesday night was on the highest part of the street; the water didn’t get in my car but did in other cars on the street, including my neighbor in the front apartment’s car. It was very close, too–another inch or two and there would have been water inside my car.

Am I concerned about this weekend’s storm? Of course I am, and we never want it to flood here–but it’s not like this is unusual.

Ironically, the river in flood stage and a hurricane storm surge was something I wrote about in Bourbon Street Blues a million years ago; Scotty just mentioned it briefly in passing as a concern that the river was high and if a storm surge came up the river (ironically, before Katrina that was always the prime concern–no one worried about the storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain, which was what did us in); right now our plan is to stay put and probably move the car to the parking garage at Canal Place so I don’t have to worry about the car getting flooded–there’s going to be a lot of rain and I imagine our streets will repeat what happened yesterday morning.

It is really hard to imagine that Katrina was almost fourteen years ago. Sometimes it seems like yesterday, sometimes it seems like it was a different lifetime.

Yesterday I was emotionally drained and exhausted most of the day; I took my Snow Day/Flood Day very easy and didn’t do anything. I didn’t clean, I didn’t write, I didn’t even read–I just wasted most of the day interacting on social media and keeping an eye on the weather. I imagine the exhaustion was a form of leftover PTSD. It rears itself every once in a while, usually triggered by something like a flood event after a thunderstorm or the imminent arrival of a tropical storm of some sort–hey, hello, did you forget about me? Ha ha ha, still here!

But as I said, it’s sunny today–there are thunderstorms in the forecast for this evening, so on my way to the office today I’ll fill the tank with gas just in case–the lovely thing about owning a Honda now is that a full tank will ease any worries about running out of gas in case of an evacuation, whereas the gas-guzzling cars I evacuated in previously made that always an issue, and I think we have everything we need in the house in case, you know, we stay and there’s power outages and so forth. Perhaps another loaf of bread–I have charcoal so in a worst case scenario if we’re without power I can barbecue everything in the freezer–and hopefully tonight I’ll be settled in to get some writing or editing or reading done.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel

It started raining last night as I retired to bed. Lovely, I thought, the sound of rain always helps me sleep better. There’s just something about being warm and dry underneath blankets while it’s pouring rain outside that, I don’t know, that makes me feel comfortable and relax, which is, quite naturally, rather lovely. It rained pretty heavily all night, actually; thunder woke me a couple of times, but I was able to easily go back to sleep, which was quite marvelous. I woke up this morning a little later than usual, and after seeing articles like this one, popping up on my notifications when I sat down at my computer, I might not have known how bad the raining–and subsequent flooding–actually was. My street generally doesn’t flood–it might take on an inch or so or water, but the entire neighborhood basically drains to Coliseum Square–but I did go out and check. I didn’t see any telltale leaves or dirt on the sides of any of the cars parked out there, so I am going to assume my car is okay this morning.

One can hope, at any rate.

So, yesterday I managed to write quite a bit in a very short period of time; over three thousand words on chapters nine and ten, finishing them off and bringing me back to the point where I have to start writing new chapters. Revising these first ten chapters has, as intended, brought me back into the story again, so today I am going to try to write Chapter Eleven as well as map out the rest of the middle of the book. This pleases me inordinately; I should be able to get the rest of this first draft finished by the end of the month; there’s also a three day weekend to look forward to, which is also kind of awesome. It felt great doing all that writing yesterday, and when I was finished for the day I was amazed at how great I felt. It was also a bit of a relief; whenever writing becomes hard, you always begin to question whether or not the well has run dry and your glory days are behind you.

I think that becomes worse the older you get, too–because things you’ve become used to over the course of your life begin to go away the older you get, you know? Things like teeth and hair and firm skin…the ability to write.

I watched the first episode of Fosse Verdon last night, and greatly enjoyed it. I was sort of familiar already with the story–I watched All That Jazz a very long time ago, and that film sort of spelled out the Fosse story, while of course centering Fosse and shoving Verdon’s importance to his career to the side (as always); I’m glad to see this series making this very clear. Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell are incredible; I don’t know who the actress playing young Liza Minnelli is, but she also knocked it out of the part, turning what could very easily have been your standard caricature into an actual performance. It also didn’t hurt that the first episode primarily focused on the filming of Cabaret, a film I first saw when I was very young and didn’t much care for, but as an older adult have grown to appreciate all the more–and watching this episode actually made me want to see it yet again. It’s a very good show; I hope people are watching.

I am also still thinking about Dead to Me, which is absolutely superb. Seriously, Constant Reader, you need to watch this show.

So, yesterday, as you can tell, was a good day for the most part–the overnight street flooding aside–and I also managed to get some filing and organizing and cleaning done, which was also pretty marvelous. The Lost Apartment looks better than it has in quite some time–I was managing the cleaning/writing balance pretty well–and when I was finished (quite early, actually) with the writing I was able to focus on the cleaning/filing/organizing, and it all went well. I did some backing up of computer files–the computer is getting wonky again–and did all the dishes and so forth, which was also quite lovely. I also did some note-taking in my journal.

Go, Gregalicious!

I am also really loving my Spotify subscription; I am truly sorry I didn’t discover it and its magic long ago. I’m listening to a lot of albums I used to love and reacquainting myself with how much I love them–the Cars, the Go-Go’s, Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, Aretha Franklin, Pat Benatar, the Pointer Sisters, Josie Cotton, Tina Turner, ’til Tuesday–the list goes on forever, really. I’ve saved tons of albums to my library, and have been having the best time listening to them and–as music always does–being swept back in time to when I used to listen to them originally; I guess revisiting my youth?

It’s also daunting to realize how old some of these records actually are; I mean, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is about forty-two years old now…which again adds to the horror of how old I am. AIEEEEE! But so many of them still hold up today, you know, and don’t sound dated at all, and I’m really enjoying rediscovering how great some of the records I owned in the past were and had just forgotten about. I mean, I’d absolutely forgotten how amazing the Cars were, or how terrific the Pointer Sisters’ Break Out album actually was–and still is.

So, today, I intend to write Chapter Eleven, map out some future chapters, and get some other things done before Game of Thrones tonight.

And then the entire week starts all over again, lather, rinse, repeat.

But I do have high hopes for getting things done today. Fingers crossed, Constant Reader, fingers crossed!

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Give Me the Night

Tuesday!

So the Midwest is experiencing horrific flooding, which always makes my antennae go up. Obviously, I feel bad for the victims and try to do whatever I can in whatever small way I can to help, but I also immediately think that water is going to end up here.

After all, the Father of Waters drains almost the entire basin between the Appalachians and the Rockies.

This is also of particular interest because the river is in flood stage right now, cresting at seventeen feet. The Bonne-Carre Spillway was opened a few weeks ago, draining some of the water into Lake Pontchartrain and eventually the Gulf (in the olden days fishermen always complained about the spillway opening, even trying to legally stop; since Katrina it’s never ever mentioned). The levees protect New Orleans up to twenty feet–but I am sure you can understand, Constant Reader if we here in New Orleans raise an eyebrow when the Army Corps of Engineers assure us about levee protection. But the flood waters from the Missouri River floods won’t be here until the end of April, and they are already discussing closing the spillway.

Yeah, I rest easy at night.

But from what I’ve seen of the flooding on the news, my heart goes out to those impacted, affected, who are losing everything. If you can help, people, please try to do so.

I’m not as tired this morning as I thought I would be, given how tired I was last night and how little I wanted to get out of bed yesterday morning. But it’s a long day, and we’ll see how well I am doing when I walk out of the building tonight to get in my car and come home.

I managed to do very little yesterday, despite not being tired; trying to keep up with my email was a challenge, also thoroughly proving my adage email begets email. I am determined to not only keep up with it today but to get through it all; we’ll see how successful I actually am at pulling that off. One can always hope, can’t one?

I know I certainly do.

I do want to go down to the river at some point and take some pictures of how high it is, even if it the level is receding.

And on that note, I must get back to the spice mines.

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Der Kommissar

Yesterday was, for want of a better word, odd.

Driving to work the city was a ghost town. Driving home from work, the same. This morning the sun is shining (we did have thunderstorms during the night) and while everything outside is wet and dripping, according to the forecast we have about a three hour window of heavy thunderstorms this afternoon. We might flood during that time, but when I drove home last night there wasn’t much standing water anywhere, other than around Coliseum Square, the lowest part of the neighborhood and where all our water seems to drain.

I woke up after a good night’s sleep to see that wretched Harvey has come ashore again, battering and flooding yet more of Texas–Beaumont and Port Arthur; I’ve not researched enough yet to see how things are around the Texas-Louisiana state line. It’s almost too much; I’m not having Katrina PTSD, thank God, as so many others here seem to be suffering; but I just keep donating what I can and sharing links to places where donations can be made.

Human suffering on such a large scale in our country is horrific; it’s occurring on an even larger scale in Bangladesh right now as well.

I haven’t written on the new book, or worked on inputting the line edit, as much as I should have these past few days; I know I need to focus and get on with it, but it’s difficult to not watch the Weather Channel or the news.

I did start reading Patricia Highsmith’s The Cry of the Owl last night, it’s quite good and melancholic, which kind of suits the mood I am currently in. I also reread some history last night (Leckie’s The Wars of America, one of my favorite comfort rereads) while watching the news.

Tickets for this Saturday’s LSU game go on sale to the general public today at 4; I am going to try to score some tickets for us.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines. Here’s a hunk for you, John Cena:

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