Close Range

And suddenly it’s Friday.

Our weather is taking a turn–not quite as horrific as all y’all up north with your ice storms and blizzards and below zero temperatures, yet it still a turn nonetheless. There was a quite nasty and wet thunderstorm that passed through here yesterday afternoon, and the temperature began to drop precipitously and noticeably. The governor made an announcement of some sort yesterday–severe weather alert or something of that sort–and it’s probably something I should research a bit more, I am slowly realizing as my first cup of coffee kicks in. If we’re in a severe weather alert of some sort, I should probably know more about it than this vague recollection of something I saw in passing somewhere on social media yesterday. And if that is indeed the case, well, it’s just as well the parades were cancelled ahead of time anyway.

Parades aren’t as much fun when it’s cold and raining.

Not, of course, that cold or rain would stop us from going out to the corner.

Okay, so I looked and I don’t see anything; I’m not sure what the governor’s message or whatever it was I saw somewhere was about, but at least for today there is no threat of severe weather in New Orleans. It’s forty-eight degrees–it doesn’t feel cold in the Lost Apartment, but one never knows; the interior temperature is not always an indicator of the exterior–but it is gray and grim outside. It rained most of the night too–a thunderstorm woke me up in the middle of the night (never fear, I was able to return to sleep quite easily) and so everything outside looks wet. I don’t think I am going to go outside much today–I will go to the gym tomorrow–as I have to work at home today and once today’s work-at-home duties are over I have to dive headfirst back into my book–and so shortly will have to head back into the spice mines. I haven’t decided what film to watch during my condom-packing duties, but I am starting to lean toward the teen movies of the 1980’s. I had thought Risky Business was free to stream somewhere, but I couldn’t find it anywhere yesterday…but Prime suggested Taps to me, and since the idea was to view early Tom Cruise films performances (at least the ones before Top Gun), and he was in Taps–in fact, I think it was Taps that first got him a lot of attention–and I had never seen Taps, I thought, why not? So I clicked play.

I wsa vaguely aware of the film at the time of its release, and knew vaguely what it was about–military school being closed, cadets seize control of it–but had never seen it. I also knew that it was Timothy Hutton’s first star vehicle after he won an Oscar for Ordinary People, and that it–like many other teen movies of the early 1980’s, had a bunch of early-in-their-career stars in it who made good impressions on critics and audiences–Tom Cruise in particular. I’d forgotten that Sean Penn was also in it (if I ever knew; I think this preceded his breakout role in Fast Times at Ridgemont High; I seem to recall his follow-up to that was Bad Boys, which was set in juvie, and after that he was on the fast track to stardom), and I don’t think I’d ever known that Giancarlo Esposito was in it as a beautiful young man. There were any number of other faces I recognized–one of the younger kids I’ve seen in other things, but I couldn’t place him or his name while I watched and I still am not completely sure who he was (a quick google search turns up the name John P. Navin Jr., who played one of the cousins in National Lampoon’s Vacation)–and another was Evan Handler, young and with hair, years before he joined the cast of Sex and the City.

I’m really not sure why I never saw Taps, either in the theater or on cable, to be honest. I’ve always liked Hutton, and (surprise!) I’ve always been drawn to stories about all-male environments for teenaged boys or young men. I loved Pat Conroy’s The Lords of Discipline (the book is a favorite; I’ve never seen the movie) and also Lucian Truscott IV’s Dress Gray (again, the book and never watched the film); I’ve always enjoyed seeing the group dynamics play out in those environments. But watching the film, I couldn’t help but reflect how dark the movie was in tone–it’s very anti-military, really–and is actually very attuned to our present day world, which the film can be extrapolated to expose and perhaps even be seen as a warning. The devotion that the headmaster, General Rache, (played by George C. Scott) and the school inspires in the young boys under his watch is very disturbing–particularly given what we know about cults and how they operate nowadays. The boys’ rebellion to save their school is misguided from the very beginning; a decision is made that they do not agree with and decide they are not going to abide by it, even if it means violence and seizing control of the school. They are obviously breaking the law–and as the movie went on, I couldn’t help but think yeah, this movie isn’t going to end well–a lot of these boys are going to wind up dead…

But then I remembered they were majority white, and breathed a little easier…because of course the National Guard and the police would never use violence against privileged white boys. The tragic denouement of the film is in perfect accord with the darkness of the plot and its warnings about how easily people can be indoctrinated and what mass delusion can look like and how dangerous that can be certainly are timely in our present day America. It’s definitely an anti-war film–more specifically, an anti-military film, and in that regard is more of a Cynical 1970’s Movie than it is an 80’s teen movie; and again, it’s a lot deeper than my original impression before watching it led me to believe. Timothy Hutton is fantastic in the lead role–all of the boys are terrific–and there’s this wonderful moment with George C. Scott, when he’s talking about how military leaders are often considered “mad” because of the decisions they have to make, knowing that the men under their command could die or be permanently maimed or injured but having to make those decisions….how can it not drive you mad? It was also interesting seeing Scott play the scene, considering he won an Oscar for playing Patton…and thought, they cast him specifically for this speech, didn’t they?

And of course, now it has me thinking about a long dormant crime novel idea I had set at an all-boys military school.

And yeah, on that note I need to head back into the spice mines.

Today Was a Fairytale

It is Saturday and I am also on vacation for a week. Huzzah!

I have a lot to do, of course, as always, and of course, LSU is playing Arkansas today at eleven–how far the mighty have fallen, to be playing a Western division conference game at eleven in the morning on the SEC Network–so I will undoubtedly watch the game while reading, making notes on things I am working on, and trying to get caught up while not getting terribly saddened by the game and how it turns out.

But of course, as always, the intent behind this vacation is to get caught up on everything, which is no easy chore, believe you me. I need to whip the book into shape and get it rolling again; I need to finish a short story that has to be submitted by January 15th; the Lost Apartment is a disgusting pigsty that desperately needs to be deep-cleaned; and I’d love to be able to finish reading The Hot Rock as well as some other short stories. I also have a goal to relax and get rested, which will also be lovely.

I am sort of looking at the vacation as a kind of reboot, quite frankly; a time to snap out of the writing malaise I’ve been experiencing for the last few months and get back into my writing again. Getting caught up would be absolutely lovely, but as I always tend to be behind on everything…it doesn’t help that Louisiana and New Orleans history is so colorful and fascinating that I will often go down a major wormhole triggered by something I come across looking for something else–I spent several days in the wormhole created by having my curiosity aroused by the Mississippi River forts, for example, and came away from it with no story ideas other than an amorphous Sherlock Holmes story and perhaps something more recent, but again, amorphous and not much else. I spent a couple of days immersed in Cajun and Louisiana folklore, looking for something I could use for the Christmas horror story, only to come up relatively empty-handed. I have the opening for the story, still don’t know what the rest of the plot is, and am not convinced I chose the correct Cajun folk story/monster to use–which is part of the reason I decided to give up on trying to get the story finished by December 1st.

I also have a sink full of dishes and papers and files and books stacked everywhere. Not good, not good at all.

Yesterday Rex–the main krewe that still parades on Fat Tuesday, and whose “king” (Rex) is traditionally considered the King of Carnival, cancelled their ball and also announced that, with no ball and no parade this season, they will not be naming a King and Queen this year. This came as a surprise to me–let’s face it, few krewes are as conservative politically as either Rex or Comus (who chose not to parade once the city passed an ordnance not allowing krewes to discriminate in their memberships) so having Rex cancel its festivities is indicative of the seriousness of the pandemic, really. I know a lot of New Orleanian traditionalists were still holding out hope that parade season would happen, but with Rex making this stand you can be pretty certain that the party’s over for 2021. While this is obviously sad–who isn’t sad that Carnival isn’t going to happen?–it also means that 2022 Carnival will be epic and balls-to-the-wall; I also hate that the last Carnival was the cursed Carnival of 2020. The Historic New Orleans Collection has a great article about the thirteen times parades were cancelled over the 150 years or so we’ve been having Carnival here in New Orleans; naturally, now I am thinking about writing something during a cancelled Carnival of the past.

It’s weird when norms vanish, isn’t it? I would have never dreamed Carnival would ever be cancelled, and yet, here we are.

But will people still turn out in costume on Fat Tuesday? It’s still a holiday, after all, and I can, sadly, see people turning out to drink all day and celebrate.

I meant to read some short stories yesterday, even got started on reading one or two, but after I got home from the gym I wasn’t in the mood and so none of them took with me; I hope to do better with that today. I did make it to the gym last evening, and it was lovely. There’s still some tightness and muscle soreness in my back, but it’s not nearly as bad it was originally, and going to the gym actually made it seem better, to be honest. We watched an episode of The Mandalorian last night–this week’s not being one of the stronger episodes, although the story of the Child progressed a little bit (note to producers: more Giancarlo Esposito, please) and then I fell into a wormhole of Ten Minute History videos on Youtube before retiring for the evening. I do feel very well rested this morning, and not especially groggy; which should bode fairly well for the rest of my day. The lovely thing about this abbreviated and bizarre football season is I am not vested in it other than in watching LSU play; and with the game on early today I should be able to get plenty of things done today (in theory, at least); but seriously, if nothing else, I should be able to make progress on my reading.

And on that note, those dishes aren’t going to clean themselves, alas, so it’s time to mine spice. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.