Okie from Muskogee

Thursday morning, and I am working from home today; or taking a mental health day–I’m not sure which it will be as of yet. This week has been fraught, to say the least, and by the time I got home yesterday I was exhausted and literally just collapsed into my easy chair for cat cuddles and mindless Youtube viewing. I don’t precisely remember what led me down that particular rabbit hole, but I at one point found myself listening/watching music videos of the Archies, Josie and the Pussycats, the Monkees, and the Partridge Family. (Hanna-Barbara animation, by the way, wasn’t very good–and the voices! My God, the speaking voices of the characters was like fingernails on a blackboard.) We also continue to watch The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and seriously–if you’re home, have Netflix, and are looking for something really fun to binge, you can’t go wrong with Sabrina.

I think what is making this week particularly hard is knowing that this weekend was when the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival/Saints & Sinners was supposed to be taking place; I was looking forward to seeing friends and making new ones, hanging out in the Quarter, staying in our posh suite at the Monteleone while coming home from time to time to keep Scooter company, and then launching into the next week energized and ready to get back to writing. Instead, I am physically and emotionally drained; the weather is spectacular (although I would imagine those from up north would consider this too hot–it is much warmer than it usually is in late March), and who knows what fresh hell tomorrow will bring? This morning I woke up at seven, but stayed in bed almost another two hours simply because I didn’t want to face my emails or whatever the new reality for today was going to be. But I can’t, in fact, stay in bed all day–no matter how much I want to–so I finally rolled out of bed and am now on my first cup of coffee and thinking already about how best to make use of the day.

I did read “The Masque of the Red Death” again finally last evening; I found a pdf on-line free for download (thank you, public domain!) so I downloaded and printed it out and read it while a cat purred in my lap. As I was reading it–it’s really more of a fable or fairy tale than an actual story; there’s no real characters, and the only one who has a name–Prince Prospero–is never developed into anything remotely human or three dimensional; as I said, it’s more of a fable illustrating the futility of trying to escape from death than an actual short story. And yet–yet it still resonated with me more than “Death in Venice”, which, though, I am still thinking about a few days later, which means it affected me probably more than I originally thought.

Either that, or all these stories–linked by plagues and Venice, in some ways; it was easy to imagine Prospero’s palace being on the Grand Canal–are linking and fusing together in my mind somehow; so perhaps the essay I am thinking about isn’t so far-fetched and out of touch with reality as perhaps I may have originally thought. I am going to spend some time today reading du Maurier’s “Death in Venice” pastiche, “Ganymede”, and I will let you know how that goes. I still don’t seem to be able to commit to a full-length novel, but I also do remember that I did read an awful lot in the aftermath of Katrina–in fact, I remember rereading All the President’s Men as well as a book about the criminal conduct of Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew–and so am thinking I might be best off turning to my non-fiction reading. I am still reading Jason Berry’s City of a Million Dreams, and I am thinking about getting down my copy of Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror and rereading her chapters about the bubonic plague’s first, and most deadly, visits to Europe.

I made a post on Facebook yesterday, a little annoyed, about how the condos being built on my street two lots over is continuing despite the shelter-in-place order, essentially saying so glad the condo construction going on two lots over from my house is considered essential. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the guys are working and getting paid; these are scary times, particularly for those living paycheck to paycheck, and I certainly don’t begrudge anyone getting paid-, but I can’t help but think about their safety, and I also can’t help but wonder who in the hell is going to buy a condo in this economic climate? As of yesterday Louisiana had 1,795 confirmed cases and 65 deaths, most of them in Orleans Parish, but it’s spreading gradually to the outer parishes, who are even less equipped to deal with a pandemic than Orleans. Anyway, this led to an idea for a noir short story called “Condos For Sale or Rent”, and I actually scribbled down the opening to the story last night…and it also kind of made me think about, as is my wont, quarantine/pandemic fiction. I wonder what post-flood New Orleans fiction would be like; now I wonder about how this whole pandemic/quarantine event will impact not just crime fiction, but fiction in general.

And here I am, already thinking about a pandemic short story, and even last night, before switching on Sabrina (that’s how the Youtube wormhole started; I was thinking about Sabrina, and how she was originally a character on Archie–so I looked for the old show on Youtube, found the video for “Sugar Sugar”, which featured Sabrina working a kissing booth, and then I got sucked in), I was thinking about a Scotty book during the pandemic/quarantine. Obviously such a book cannot be written now–without knowing what’s going to happen with COVID-19, you cannot tell the entire story–but it’s not a bad idea to take notes and come up with thoughts about it.

I also just remembered Katherine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse Pale Rider is set during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918; perhaps I should read it again. Not a huge fan of Porter, either, to be honest; I read The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter (I was looking for “Miss Brill,” not realizing at the time that was written by Katherine Mansfield rather than Porter) and was underwhelmed by them. Maybe I should give it another whirl? Maybe my tastes have matured and deepened enough by now for me to develop an appreciation for Porter. I should probably take another run at Hemingway–I only read The Old Man and the Sea and A Farewell to Arms, both of which were required for a lit class in high school and I hated them both–although Hemingway is precisely the kind of writer I’d hate if I knew in real life.

And on that note I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and do whatever you need to in order to keep yourself safe and uninfected.

Chris-Mears

Santa Baby

And here we are, Wednesday already, and Christmas a mere week away.

I avoided a horrible Christmas blunder yesterday, so I have to give a shout out to Overstock.com for handling the problem quickly and efficiently and effectively saving Christmas.

Okay, that may be overstated a little, but STILL.

The last time I’d ordered from them I was still working at the office on Frenchmen Street, so I had whatever it was I ordered delivered there. Being an idiot–my default is always to have things shipped to my postal service, alwaysI didn’t bother to check when ordering, and it wasn’t until yesterday morning that I looked at the confirmation emails to verify the shipping. Overstock was able to help me get that corrected almost immediately. So, huzzah!  A Christmas miracle!

I was terribly tired yesterday and fairly unable to focus most of the day because of it, so no writing was done. When I got home last night–in the cold–I simply collapsed into my easy chair, covered myself with a blanket, and let Scooter curl up on me for even more warmth. I went to bed early and slept very well. I still woke up a couple of times in the night, but was able to easily return to the arms of Morpheus.

But today I am rested. I do have to work all day, as opposed to a half-day as is per usual on Wednesdays because I had to take last Friday off, tonight I’ll be doing data entry until it’s time to come home. And tonight hopefully I’ll be able to get some writing done. I really want to get this manuscript out of my hair by the end of the year. I’m not exactly sure how I am going to manage that–there’s not much time left in the year, after all, and I am notoriously lazy–but it would be great if that could happen. I think we’re going to go see The Rise of Skywalker this weekend; I’d like to go Saturday afternoon if we can get tickets; I’ll be trying to order them on-line later today. I can’t believe the Skywalker series of Star Wars films are coming to an end, but if Rogue One and The Mandalorian are examples of what can be done without the Skywalkers, count me all the way in.

I am still reading Laura Benedict’s The Stranger Inside, but the fact it’s taking me so long to read it should not be counted against it–it’s quite excellent. I simply got sidetracked by the Watchmen graphic novel, Disney Plus, and a lack of time to read more. I am also still working my way through Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, and we are finally at the point where the Vieux Carre Commission is being created and empowered to protect the historic value and integrity of the Quarter. New Orleans history is so fascinating and entertaining–and delightfully dark. I also want to reread Chris Wiltz’s fantastic The Last Madam, about Norma Wallace–who was, indeed, the “last madam.”

I had an idea a while back for a noir set in the Quarter–don’t I always?–and maybe noir is the wrong term; a pulp? There’s a difference, I suppose, between pulp fiction and noir; this would probably be a pulp more than a noir. Anyway, during the height of the “girl” title crime novel craze (not that it’s gone away), I made a joke that I wanted to write a book called Girls Girls Girls–after all, multiple “girls” in the title is surely better than just one? And while it started as a joke, like almost always, as I thought about it more, the more an idea for a book started to come to me; the strip clubs in the Quarter were being raided around this time–for drugs, prostitution, underage girls, etc.–and there was yet another crackdown on vice down in the Quarter; this happens, as I’ve learned through reading city history, periodically. (Notorious district attorney Jim Garrison, lionized by Oliver Stone in JFK despite the fact he was a headline-hunting power-mad Fascist who used his office to avenge political and personal slights, also led one of these campaigns back in the 1960s–clean up the Quarter!) And a germ of an idea started forming, about a female vice cop sent undercover to investigate a strip club–and the following descent into violence and darkness. I doubt, however, that the NOPD would ever ask one of its own to go undercover as a stripper; but she could certainly be a shot girl. The other day I started writing a short story–nothing much, just some fragments of sentences and paragraphs and general ideas and so forth–called “Shot Girl”; I also realized that this could be my introduction to the character who would eventually be the center of Girls Girls Girls. 

Just a thought, anyway.

And on that note, I am going to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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Causing a Commotion

Last Saturday, as you may know, the Hard Rock Hotel, currently under construction at the corner of Rampart and Canal Street in the French Quarter, collapsed. Today, they are going to set off some controlled explosions to bring down the damaged cranes, which are no longer attached to the construction and present a clear and present danger to the area. Many of the businesses in a very large radius from the construction site are closed until further notice, causing the businesses and their employees financial hardship.

Several people were also killed as a result of the collapse.

I no longer drive to and from work on Rampart Street–we moved into new offices for the day job last November; it’s much easier for me to get on the Interstate coming and going to work now–but I pretty much made that drive every day from 2005 through last November, other than the years the street was torn up in order to resurface it as well as put in the Rampart/St. Claude streetcar line. The construction site was where the Canal Street Woolworth’s was for decades; the very Woolworth’s whose lunch counter was protested during the Civil Rights era because it was segregated. I always hated that the Woolworth’s closed and was torn down, because I felt that it was of no little historic significance; particularly at a time when the Confederate monuments still polluted the city.  But Woolworth’s is no longer in existence, and what else to do with a prime real estate lot that wasn’t being used? There’s already a Hard Rock Hotel on Bourbon Street, but this complex was going to be much larger and was, I think, going to house a Hard Rock nightclub, if I’m not mistaken–because a nightclub at that corner is precisely what the city needed (eye roll).

The construction collapse also exposed some typical New Orleans corruption; the contractor is allegedly shady and has an apparently well-earned bad reputation on every level. There was also some bribery going on, and someone at City Hall, who was signing off on permits, and safety inspections that weren’t being done, was also arrested this week. I am very curious as to what that is going to mean for the future of the Hard Rock Hotel; even if they hire a reputable contractor, I would imagine everything already built will need to come down and be rebuilt; and how do you recover your reputation from that?

It will be interesting, and of course, I am thinking there’s a book or a story in this somewhere. I’ve already created a shady contractor in New Orleans, by the name of Sam Dreher, in Royal Street Reveillon; I can certainly use that character again, and who knows? French Quarter Flambeaux just might make a terrific Scotty novel.

It’s hard to imagine, though, at this point how the Hard Rock Hotel can continue to be built–I would imagine it would have to be torn down completely and started over, but what do I know? I am neither an engineer nor an architect. But I would also think it would be hard to get past the fact that several people died in a construction disaster while it was being built; here is the perfect set up for a French Quarter horror novel about a haunted hotel, don’t you think? One that is cursed with death and tragedy; similar to the Overlook in The Shining.

Interesting.

This also reminds me that Arthur Hailey’s bestselling novel Hotel, which was adapted into a television series in the 1980’s (it came on after Dynasty), was also set in New Orleans; the St. Gregory Hotel in the novel was on Common Street in the CBD, one block from the French Quarter–a grand old hotel of the city (the television show moved the setting to San Francisco; which I still think was a mistake. An anthology television series along the lines of a more serious The Love Boat, set in a hotel with guest stars every week playing out individual stories as they visit the hotel, to me, would work better in New Orleans than San Francisco; then again, I may be biased heavily) in desperate need of some financial investment.  Hailey, who is not so remembered today, was a huge bestseller of his time, and he wrote sprawling novels about industries, and the people who worked in them, and the people who got involved with said industry somehow; with the stories all intermingled. He also wrote Airport, which became one of the first disaster movies, and eventually a series of sequels about plane disasters; he also co-wrote the novel Runway Zero-Eight, also filmed–and that film was what Airplane! spoofed. He wrote about banks (The Moneychangers), hospitals (The Final Diagnosis), power companies (Overload), drug companies (Strong Medicine), car companies (Wheels), and news broadcasts (The Evening News). He also wrote a political thriller, In High Places, which was one of the most thoughtful cold war thrillers; it was written from the perspective of the Canadian government, negotiating desperately with the United States since the skies over Canada were going to be the battleground between the US and the Soviet Union.

I reread Airport after I actually went to work at an airport, and have to say, Hailey’s research was excellent; he really captured the behind-the-scenes activity of an airport impacted by a blizzard perfectly. Likewise, I read The Moneychangers when I was working at a bank–he actually researched Bank of America for the book, which is where I worked–and again, spot on.

Now I’m thinking about rereading Hotel, if only to see how it was done, and how he depicted New Orleans in the 1960’s.

Anyway. I’ll continue to follow the story of the Hard Rock Hotel collapse, and see where it goes, and maybe–just maybe–it could be the basis for something. As you can see, I’ve already had any number of ideas spring from the incident…as always.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Let’s Wait Awhile

Thursday and I still have no voice–well, I do, but my throat is still sore and my voice is still raspy-ish. But it is getting better–I really need to treat it with honey and tea, I suppose–but it’s annoying that it has lasted this long. I’ve also had an earache for a lot longer than necessary, which is terribly irritating. I’ve not actually had an earache in a very long time, and of course, now that sixty is just over the horizon, everything new and different and unusual that happens to me physically automatically turns into something traumatic in my head: I wonder if I damaged my hearing at Tiger Stadium last Saturday?

It wouldn’t surprise me. There were times during the game when the crowd was so loud I could feel the noise vibrating against my ear drums. Heavy heaving sigh. Of course I suppose now I can feign deafness when someone I don’t want to listen to is talking to me…

Oh, I already do that. Never mind.

But it’s Thursday morning, and I slept later than I probably should have this morning. C’est la vie. I kind of feel like I need another weekend to regroup and recover from everything; and I also can’t seem to get overly focused to work this week on my writing–or to read anything. It’s rather disappointing, but the earache from hell–which is sticking around, apparently, for another day–is enormously distracting and does make it harder for me to focus. I’m going to take a Claritin in a moment–my sinuses appear to also be fucked up; and maybe opening up my sinuses will alleviate the earache; stranger things have happened, after all–and hope that makes things better for the day.

I’m not really sure why we continue to watch American Horror Story: 1984. Last night’s episode continued to go even further off the rails, and the previews for next week’s episode seemed also incredibly unappealing. I had wondered how they would manage to draw out a slasher film homage into ten or eleven episodes, particularly since it was all taking place over the course of one night; and now I apparently have my answer. And yet, much as I am hating it, we’ll probably keep watching to the bitter end…the only season we ever completely bailed on was Hotel.

I’m hopeful that this weekend will be a productive one, since last weekend was a complete wash. I am so behind on everything now! It sucks being tired, and slightly ill, this entire week. It really sucks that my throat is so sore–and that it’s still not better. Is it worn from all the yelling last Saturday night, or is this a holdover from being sick? It sucks when they both happen at the same time so i can’t figure it out, you know what I mean? Just horrible. Heavy heaving sigh.

But I did manage to get the bills paid, and updated my debt list. It’s disheartening to see how much debt I’ve managed to accrue over the last few years, but it’s also somewhat heartening to know that it’s all, primarily, because I bought a new car, and have been trying to pay it off early ever since. It’s also lovely, and most satisfying, to see the debt owed on the car slowly but steadily decreasing. I haven’t been able to pay more down than the regular payment for most of the year, but it’s finally down into four figures, and should go much faster now that it’s that low. God, what will I do with all that extra money once the car is paid off? And if I take care of this car, it should last me for a good long time…

And once the car is paid for, the rest of the debt can get paid off. Thank you, baby Jesus.

Anyway, I am hoping to start reading Certain Dark Things today; I opened it the other night and read the first paragraph, and loved the style and authorial voice. My reading has certainly been suffering lately, and while I am desperately trying to get organized and rested and all that nonsense, I really need to focus. Sigh, I’ve been saying that for a really long time, haven’t I?

I am still reading my New Orleans history, though–I am now up to “The Last of the Mafia” in Robert Tallant’s Ready to Hang, which is about the kidnapping of young Walter Lamana. I’ve already read about this case–it was talked about in Empire of Sin, I believe, although I could be wrong–but it’s always interesting to me to read about how the French Quarter, in the days before preservation began, had turned into a terrible slum (which is why, before the preservation movement took hold in the city, bulldozing the Quarter would come up every so often). Since I am going to be writing a short story or two during this period–did I mention I was asked to write a Sherlock Holmes pastiche? If not, I’ve been asked to write a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, and I have a terrific idea for it–I need to get an idea of what the Quarter was actually like back then, especially if Sherlock Holmes is going to be living in the Quarter.

My ADHD-addled brain has certainly been jumping all over the place lately, and I’ve been trying to write ideas down in my journal as they come to me.

And on that note, perhaps I should put on my miner’s hat and head into the mines. I don’t get off work this evening until eight, so I know when I get home I’m not going to want to clean or do much of anything; I’ll probably try to get some writing done this evening but I am not holding out much hope. This entire week has been almost a complete loss.

Sigh. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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Jacob’s Ladder

Tuesday morning and all is fine…at least so far.

I managed to finish the reread/outline of Bury Me in Shadows last night, which is very cool, and as I said the other day, it doesn’t need nearly as much work as I thought it did–which, given how it was written in fits and starts over the period of a few months, I figured there would be tons of repetition. As it is, I did repeat something–the first time my main character, Jake, was ever called a gay slur–about three or four times. Obviously, I only need to have that in there once.

What’s funny about it, though, is that each instance is based on a different time it happened to me when I was a kid–and I managed to remember four different times. Who knows how many others I can remember? Ah, the joys of being a queer kid in America back in the day.

But the book is, as I said, in much better shape than I remembered or thought, and so it’s not going to be as much work to finish it as I thought. Don’t get me wrong–it’s still going to be a lengthy slog, it’s just not going to take me as a long to finish this final edit than I thought it might. It’s still entirely possible that I could have it finished and ready to go sometime next week, which would be really lovely. One can certainly hope, at least.

I’ve managed to sleep well both nights so far this week–I didn’t even feel tired yesterday until after I got home from the office. I somehow managed to make it through an entire twelve-hour day without feeling exhausted or worn out. On the other hand, we were also pretty slow yesterday; perhaps not having client after client after client made the difference.

We finished watching Big Mouth last night, which is easily one of the funniest things on television right now, and will now slide back into watching our other shows each evening, trying to get caught up on them all. A plethora of riches for us to choose from, and we still have only watched the first episode of the first season of Succession, so there’s also that.

I’m not as energetic this morning as I was yesterday; but that’s probably par for the course. I may not have been as worn out as I usually am on Monday evening last night, but it was still a twelve hour day, and today is probably a vestigial hangover from that. That doesn’t bode well for the day, but I”m hoping it’s just a slow waking up morning type of thing. I’ve still got so much to do it’s not even funny. Motivation is the primary problem I am having this morning, and my coffee doesn’t seem to be working the way I generally expect/need it to. Oh, wait–there it is. Hello, caffeine!

There was a cold front that came through last night so today is supposedly going to be cooler than it has been–sad that temperatures in the mid-80’s is “cooler than it has been,” but that’s life down here in the swamp. This summer has certainly lasted longer than any have seemed to before, but that could also just be my own faulty memory. My memories are questionable, it seems. That’s why people who can write their own memoirs or autobiographies amaze me so much–how do you remember all of that? There are so many gaps in my memories, and memories that are simply flat out wrong; for example, I would have sworn on a Bible and testified to it in court that we moved from Chicago out to the suburbs in the winter of 1969, which is incorrect. We moved in the winter of 1971, two years later; I was ten years old and in the sixth grade. I knew I was ten when we moved, and yet somehow I always managed to convince myself we moved in 1969. Why or how or when that year became fixated in my brain as the year we moved is beyond me; I’ve always been able to remember the year we moved to Kansas because it was the summer before my junior year. I graduated in 1978, so we had to have moved to Kansas in 1976. It was also the Olympic year–Montreal–and the same Olympics where Nadia Comenici started throwing perfect 10’s in the gymnastics competition.

Why have I been thinking about the past so much lately? I’m not sure. Maybe because Bury Me in Shadows is set in a fictional county that is based on the county where my family is from, so I’ve been drawing on childhood memories to construct a fictional place based in reality from my past. It’s strange to look at Google Earth renderings of where we’re from, and see that my memories are, in fact, incorrect; but in fairness I never drove anywhere in Alabama. I was always a passenger, and I think driving cements directions and so forth in your mind–when you’re just riding in the car you don’t pay as much attention as you would if you were driving. I’m also writing “Never Kiss a Stranger,” which is set in New Orleans in 1994, so I’m having to delve into my memories of visiting here and remembering what the city was like then. It does seem different now than it was then–certainly the city has changed since that first visit all those years ago, when I first explored the gay bars and the Quarter and fell in love with New Orleans; part of the reason I am writing the story and setting it in that time is to write about, and preserve in fiction, my memories of the city back then and what it was like. I’m also glad I decided to turn it into a novella–I may do a book of four novellas, like Stephen King’s Different Seasons and Full Dark No Stars–which would be kind of a departure for me. I already have “Never Kiss a Stranger” in progress, and there’s also “Fireflies,” and perhaps I have two other stories on hand that could easily be adapted into longer novellas….often the problem I have with writing short stories is the word counts; some stories struggle to come in under 6000 words.

Which, now that I think about it, could easily make “Once a Tiger” and “Please Die Soon” and perhaps even “Death and the Handmaidens” work; simply make them longer and that will probably solve the issues with all three stories.

An interesting and intriguing thought.

And on that note, tis time for me to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

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Yes We Can Can

It’s Friday and we survived another week, Constant Reader!`

I switched my schedule today to work in the afternoon–we’re short-staffed–and thus was able to get a nice, relaxing night’s sleep (to make up for Wednesday night’s restless night) and hopefully allow my back to get some rest and heal up whatever the hell I did to it on Wednesday. I got a lovely night’s sleep last night, and so today I am going to get caught up on a lot of stuff that had slid while I was working on the massive volunteer project–my email inbox in particular, has raged out of control for quite some time now–and finish paying my bills before heading into the office this afternoon. I did get some work done on a short story last night, and managed to get to bed fairly early.

Royal Street Reveillon officially is released in about four more days, and yes, I am going to talk about the book pretty much every day until it is officially born into the world. The cover is completely fantastic; it might be my favorite Scotty cover ever, and I’ve pretty much loved them all.

When I first wrote about Scotty, obviously the first book was set during Southern Decadence. When I got a two book contract, essentially turning a stand alone novel into the nascent beginnings of a series, I thought well, the personal story can work through a trilogy; and I’ll set the three books during the gay holidays–Decadence, Halloween, and Mardi Gras. And when the series continued beyond the original trilogy, the next one, Vieux Carre Voodoo, opened with the Gay Easter Parade. Eventually, the holiday theme was discarded as the series continued–Who Dat Whodunnit was built around the Saints’ trip to the Super Bowl; Baton Rouge Bingo was built around Louisiana history and the legacy of Huey Long; and Garden District Gothic not only set up the new book, but was built around an unsolved crime in the past that was affecting the present day negatively. With Royal Street Reveillon, I decided to go back to the holiday thing; it’s set during the Christmas season, as the title implies, and the gorgeous cover reflects that (one of the things I love the most about the cover is that one of the lanterns at the entrance to Jackson Square isn’t lit; nothing is more New Orleans than only three of the four lanterns actually working).

It’s funny that it took me so long to write about New Orleans at Christmas time; I wrote and published a Christmas story over a decade ago, “The Snow Queen,” which was included in my anthology Upon a Midnight Clear, which has been out of print since around 2008, and will probably be included in my short story collection Monsters of new Orleans, should I ever get around to finishing writing the stories for that. I love New Orleans at Christmas time; the city always likes decorating for the holidays, and people go all for Christmas. The French Quarter almost becomes like a little Christmas village, with the fronts of houses decorated and bushes and trees and balconies festooned with decor. The massive live oaks that line our streets are often filled with lights; the enormous facades of the houses on St. Charles are also decorated with lights and the yards are filled with reindeer and Santas and snowmen. Celebration in the Oaks is something we try to go see every year–the trees in City Park along the drives are all decorated and holiday decor everywhere–and is simply breathtakingly beautiful.

As I’ve gotten older, I care less and less about Christmas; Paul and I have always been astonishingly not sentimental, and the older we get the less sentimental we are. I generally view Christmas as little more than a paid two days off from work (we also get Christmas Eve as a paid holiday). Scooter’s inability to resist attacking the decorations has resulted in us not decorating the Lost Apartment since he destroyed the Christmas tree that first year he spent the holiday with us; he also tries to chew the wires for lights, so we no longer string lights along the railing for the staircase (Skittle would knock a low-hanging ornament off the tree and then get bored). We still get each other gifts, of course, and I try to remember to send cards every year but don’t always succeed. I don’t watch Christmas movies anymore, or Christmas specials, and we certainly don’t play Christmas music in the apartment–it’s so incessant everywhere else in the world during the season that there’s no need–and other than going to Pat Brady’s annual Christmas party, we don’t really do much for Christmas anymore.

Sometimes I wonder if that’s sad, but then remember it doesn’t bother me in the least, and cease worrying about it.

Writing about Scotty during the Christmas season did raise an interesting question: how would Scotty and his immediate family celebrate the holiday, given his parents aren’t Christians, nor was he or his siblings raised that way? But Christmas, originally a Christian usurpation of a pagan holiday, has really lost its religious meaning here in the United States over crass commercialization (A Charlie Brown Christmas actually explored the true meaning of Christmas versus the growing commercialization of the holiday, seeing it as a huge problem, back in the early 1960’s, and the lesson was clearly lost on its audience as the commercialization has only gotten worse in the decades since, despite the show airing every year)m and it’s actually become a secular holiday; everyone gets the day off from work, pretty much, and much of the symbolism of the holiday as we know it today has no basis in faith. (This is why “merry Christmas” doesn’t bother me–I no longer consider myself to be a Christian, and haven’t for decades, but to me, saying “merry Christmas” is no different than “Happy New Year” or “enjoy your 4th of July” or “happy Thanksgiving”; but that could also be the unconscious privilege of being raised Christian, besides, saying “happy holidays” instead doesn’t hurt anyone other than those whose faith is so shallow it needs to be reinforced by others every time they turn around.)

But one of the great joys in writing Scotty, and why I still write about him, and enjoy almost every minute of it, is that Scotty finds such great joy in life, no matter what’s happening or how bad it may be; his eternal optimism and belief that the world is actually full of good people, and is actually a good place, and bad people are outliers makes writing about him one of the great pleasures of my life as a writer. As I wrote in Mardi Gras Mambo, Scotty loves Carnival and doesn’t understand people who don’t; even saying “You don’t get sick of Christmas, do you?” And there’s really the key; of course Scotty would love Christmas, would love decorating and buying presents and all the things that come with Christmas; he has an almost child-like love of the holiday, and another one of his appeals is that no matter what has happened to him–and bad things have–he never loses that child-like sense of love and wonder and awe for the world at large. Of course he would love Christmas.

Of course he would.

And despite all the crazy shit dropping in his lap this particular Christmas season, never once does Scotty ever think the holiday is ruined. Because of course it isn’t.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Take This Heart

This week, my office–where I’ve spent most of the last thirteen years–closes and we are moving into a new building. It’s the end of an era, really; I started volunteering at the Community Awareness Network (CAN) in 2003, was hired part-time in 2005, went full-time in 2008, and here we are. It’s the longest I’ve ever worked anywhere–previously, the record was four and a half years with Continental Airlines–and I’ve actually been using the same room as my office since October 10, 2010. (easy to remember as 10/10/10)

This has been in the works for many months, if not years–recent history has a tendency to blur in my mind–but I’ve been in denial about it for most of the time; I haven’t wanted to deal with the realities of the change or what it means to me personally so I’ve just pushed it to the back of my mind with a very Scarlett O’Hara-like I’ll think about it tomorrow. Well, that no longer works. They are coming to box up our computers and IT equipment on Tuesday; the movers are coming Wednesday morning to take everything over to our new building.

I shall miss my old office on Frenchmen Street; the thin walls, the ugly utilitarian carpet, the questionable plumbing. I will miss the parade of people on the street when I get off work after dark; the guys who smoke weed around the corner; the people I can see getting tattooed  through the windows of the tattoo shop on the corner; the occasional hot fireman from the fire station on the island separating Frenchmen from Decatur. Scotty lives only a block away from my office; the last block of Decatur before Esplanade across the street from the Mint. I will miss my parking spot in the lot on Elysian Fields that made going out in the Quarter so easy for so many years. I’ll miss being across the street from Mona’s Cafe, being a few blocks from Cafe Envie, and how simple and easy it was to stop at Rouse’s on the way home from work in the CBD.

I have prepared for the move without acknowledging the emotional component of it. I boxed up all the books in the bookcases in my office and brought them home or donated them. I have removed the pictures from the walls and the framed certifications I’ve earned over the years. I’ve emptied the desk drawers, organized the paperwork, removed the testing supplies back to the lab for packing.

But now, that the week of the actual move is here, I am remembering past times in the office. I am remembering Felicia and Mark and Roberto and James; Josh and DJ and Tanner and Martin and Jake and Ryan and Mark and Ked, Tyson and Jessica and Joshua and Matt, Brandon and Sarah and Lindsay, Luke and Morgan and Jeff and Drew and Augustin and Alex, Tiffany and Lena, Chris and Michael and Jeremy, Robin and Nick and Chivas and Miguel, Larry and George and Kathy, and so many volunteers over the years. There was a lot of laughter and fun in that office, and over the years we helped so many people.

It’s always sad when a chapter closes in your life, but there’s also the thrill of a new chapter beginning; the ability to keep helping people and doing the kind of work I believe in, and to just keep going on. There will be new challenges to face and overcome, but change isn’t always a bad thing; nor is it something to fear. Life would be rather dull if it remained the same, day in and day out; we would not evolve or grow were it not for change.

And on that note, ’tis back to ye olde spice mines.

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