Rock and Roll All Nite

So, I got my new glasses yesterday.

The trip to Metairie and back was relatively pain-free, other than idiot drivers on the interstate (but that’s anytime you get on the interstate here), and I have to say I like my new glasses. I’ve always chosen glasses more based on functionality than as a “fashion accessory” (I actually only discovered that was a thing about twelve years ago, and it still amazes me on both ends–one, that it’s a thing, and two, that it never dawned on me in almost forty years of wearing glasses to pick them out based on how they look on me), and I have very little patience for trying on glasses or shopping for them. I like big lenses, because it always bothers/distracts me when I can things out of focus around them. It’s also hard to find glasses that are wide enough across the face, because the distance from ear to ear that the glasses have to reach across is not proportional to the distance between my eyes.

So my glasses seem to always have the legs jutting off to the side, rather than backwards, which looks odd.

But not these new ones. The lenses are so big I can’t blurry things around them unless I look hard left or right, and the frames are so wide that the legs go straight back to my ears. I also hadn’t realized how out-of-date my old glasses were (just two years, really; maybe three?) because now I see so much better with my new ones, and they do feel comfortable on my ears and to my eyes, which is quite nice, frankly.

And of course, I primarily selected these not for how they look but for their function. The lenses are big, and so are the frames. Whether they are flattering, I don’t know. The entire concept of glasses as an accessory to enhance my appearance is an utterly foreign concept to me. I guess it goes back to being a kid and wearing glasses being considered being a strike against the way you look? (Glasses and braces–hello, Jan Brady!–being the original dipso duo) The whole men don’t make passes are girls who wear glasses thing. I know that when I wear glasses rather than my contact lenses any concern I might have about my appearance goes away; I’m wearing glasses, you see, so it doesn’t matter; I couldn’t possibly look good.

And then I begin to wonder–was it when I started having to wear progressive lenses, which fucked up the ability to wear contacts, that I started not caring about how I looked? I do remember thinking, once I had to go to progressives (no longer called bi-focals, because that’s a stigmatizing term that indicates GETTING OLD) that I could never wear contacts again; it was around this same time that I hurt my back at the gym and had to stop working out for nearly a year–a year away from the gym from which my body never truly has recovered. (And this was also, oddly enough, around the time that I decided to teach myself how to cook and bake….so my caloric intake went up around the same time that my caloric output dramatically decreased. I often wonder if the reason I feel so old and  tired so often is because I don’t work out regularly anymore)

But I like my new glasses, and I don’t know whether they are flattering or not–but i also got new progressive contact lenses as well, and I am trying very hard to adapt to wearing contacts again. When I do wear my contacts I feel differently than I do when I wear glasses; and I know damned well that it’s a completely mental thing that has nothing to do with reality. I am conditioned to think I look better without my glasses, whether I actually do or not. It’s all part and parcel of the cultural and societal conditioning I grew up with.

I started wearing glasses quite young; I was either seven or eight when I got my first pair of glasses, and to this day I remember the first time I wore them outside the house, to school. As I walked the block and half to my grade school, I remember looking at the trees and the houses and everything and being astonished at how clearly I could see everything; I also remember thinking this is how everyone else sees all the time. My entire life up until that point I’d seen everything as blurry, indistinct shapes of color the further away from them I was, and it was wondrous to be able to see the world clearly for the first time.

The fact that I wore glasses–and this is another one of those ridiculous societal things we were all brainwashed with back when I was a child–also made people think I was smart, because there was some strange correlation made between wearing glasses and being intelligent. I was intelligent, of course, but the glasses had nothing to do with it; it was, I suppose, one of those strange things where the stereotype had built up that people who wore glasses strained their eyes studying and because of the glasses they couldn’t play sports and therefore couldn’t be dumb jocks. Glasses did make it difficult for me to play sports, but my primary problem wasn’t my glasses but the problem I had (and still have, to this day) with depth perception.

My grandmother, for the record, always believed I needed glasses because I read too much in the car, which is completely insane, but she absolutely believed this and convinced my parents of it as well–so they didn’t let me read in the car for years. I guess that’s one of those “old-wives’-tales-from-back-in-the-holler” that my parents took with them to Chicago when we moved up there when I was two years old.

Rural Southern wisdom, for what it’s worth.

All right, I’ve got a lot to do today and I need to get going on it. Tis off to the spice mines with me, and have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

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Baby I Love Your Way

So, it’s Friday, and $562 later (not including the cost of the appointment itself) at the optometrist’s later, I am home. But I have my first new glasses in three years on order, and a year’s supply of contact lenses, which I am trying to get better about wearing more regularly. Part of the resignation to being old and not going to the gym regularly (if at all) anymore was the loss of contact lenses as an option years ago…I still don’t like the progressive lenses, but I am getting used to them, and I am very hopeful my vanity is going to kick in and get me off my ass.

I mean, if I don’t have to wear my glasses…

Don’t hold your breath.

So, here’s an insight into how my brain and my memory works. For years, I’ve been trying to remember the name and author of a book I read during a horror phase in the 1980’s–during that time I fantasized of being a horror novelist. When I worked at Bank of America, I didn’t have a car, and had to take the bus to and from work. I had to change busses at the Manchester Mall, going and coming, and on paydays I would, rather than catching the next bus, going into the mall, go to the B. Dalton and browse the books, and after getting a bag of books, I would eat in the food court–there was a place that had an amazing hamburger with grilled onions and bell peppers, but it wasn’t cheap and this was part of my payday treat for myself. (It was during this time period that I also went through a fantasy period; this was when I read the rest of The Shannara Chronicles and  The Belgariad) There was a horror novel that I read that has always stuck with me; when I moved to Houston from California I left most of my books behind, alas. For years I’ve been trying to remember the author’s name and the book’s title; it was set in rural New Jersey, the main characters were from New York and for some reason were spending the summer, independently of each other, in this small rural town. I remember there was a demon or a devil in a tree in the prologue which consumed someone; but there’s not much more I remember, except how brilliantly and vividly the author described things; there was a scene with the young woman working in a public library in Manhattan that was so vivid I could see the cracks in the paint and the plaster.

Today I was listening to Spotify and cued up The Best of New Order. When the song “Ceremony” came on I thought, that’s a great title for a horror short story or novella sand I was starting to reach for a pen when it hit me between the eyes, that novel set in rural New Jersey you’ve been trying to remember for twenty years was titled The Ceremonies.

A quick check on Google, and sure enough, the book is The Ceremonies by T. E. D. Klein.

And now I need to get a copy so I can reread it.

And now back to the spice mines.

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Heaven

So, I survived my voyage out to Metairie. I like the new eye doctor–Dr. Moses at Target–and I am trying out progressive contact lenses. I never really got the sense from my previous eye doctor of how they worked–basically, it sounded like witchcraft–but Dr, Moses very patiently explained how they work in a way which was incredibly easy for me to understand–and it wasn’t that hard. Basically, the pupil expands to see far away and contracts to see up close; so the progressive contact lenses are for distance viewing with a small spot in the center for reading; the pupil will contract and see through that small spot for reading, etc. Was that really that hard to explain? But they are…odd. I have a tester pair, for me to try out and get used to; and they are definitely going to take some getting used to. I can see fine for working on the computer and pretty much everything else, but reading things on say, the television–I can read it but it’s blurry. I’m assuming this is part of the adjustment process; or if it’s not, I need to have the prescription altered. I also tried reading with them in–a couple of books–and I couldn’t. I doubt that is part of the adjustment process. Heavy sigh. But I’ll have to go back in  have my eyes looked at again, I suppose, if these issues aren’t part of the “getting used to them” process.

I was very tired yesterday; I didn’t sleep as well as I should have on Friday night, so I really knocked myself out last night and feel very rested this morning, which is great. I think part of the sleep issue I’ve been having has to do with both not working out in a couple of weeks in addition to drinking more caffeine–I’d cut back dramatically on both coffee and Coke–and so today I am off to the gym and I am going to try to not drink as much caffeine. I need to drink more water anyway.

I didn’t get as much writing done yesterday as I had wanted to; I hadn’t originally planned to even try–errands and so forth generally don’t put me in a very good hey let me write place; and I was right. Plus the contacts made it seem weird, if that makes any sense? I’m sure it doesn’t. So I tried to get chores done–I laundered the bed linens, cleaned the kitchen, etc. I also got caught up on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Riverdale; when Paul finally got home last night we got caught up on How to Get Away With Murder. I also did some serious thinking about the things I am working on–a recently rejected short story, for example, that I’ve been having trouble figuring out how to fix for years and it finally hit me last night; the Scotty book and where it’s going; the WIP and where it’s going; a couple of other short stories I am working on (Christ, I am working on a lot of shit, aren’t I).

So, this morning, after sleeping in for a bit, I am going to get some filing done, do some writing in my journal (to work around some thought about what I am writing now) and then I am going to go to the gym, come home and get cleaned up, and then I am going to write/edit for a few hours before it’s time for the ice dancing tonight on the Olympics (I already miss Adam Rippon).

And of course, I read some more stories for the Short Story Project.

First up was “Black-eyed Susan” by Laura Lippman, from Hardly Knew Her:

The Melville family had Preakness coming and going, as Dontay’s Granny M liked to say. From their rowhouse south of Pimlico, the loose assemblage of three generations–sometimes as many as twenty people in the three-bedroom house, never fewer than eight–squeezed every coin they could from the third Saturday in May, and they were always looking for new ways. Revenue streams, as Dontay had learned to call them in Pimlico Middle’s stock-picking club. Last year, for example, the Melvilles tried a barbecue stand, selling racegoers hamburgers and hot dogs, but the city health people had shut them down before noon. So they were going to try bottle water this year, maybe some sodas, although sly-like, because they could bust you for not paying sales tax, too. They had considered salted nuts, but that was more of a Camden Yards thing. People going to the track didn’t seem to want nuts as much, not even pistachios. Candy melted no matter how cool the day, and it was hard to be competitive on chips unless you went off-brand, and Baltimore was an Utz city.

Parking was the big moneymaker, anyway.

Every fall, Paul and I try to attend as many LSU games as we can at Tiger Stadium. It’s so much, frankly, to be in the stadium and being in a crowd of like-minded LSU fans, yelling and screaming and jumping up and down. The first two years we went to games we parked in an African-American church’s parking lot–they were so nice, and would give us cans of soda as well as letting us park there–because it was very easy to get out of there with post-game traffic. The church sold its property, alas–no idea why, but then we needed another place to park. About a block or two closer to the stadium we found a place–Miss Fay’s. Miss Fay is an older woman of color who owns a vacant corner lot next to her house and can fit about twenty cars in there for twenty dollars each; not a bad haul for a Saturday. She’s very friendly and nice, as are the rest of her family, and so we’ve been parking there for about seven years now–and they also keep watch over the cars. The walk is a little less than a mile to the stadium from there, and even on the hottest days (that Auburn game in 2015, Jesus!) it kind of gets you in the mood for the game to walk there, and after the game–we always stay to the end–the walk back allows the traffic to thin out a bit so it’s not so bad. I’ve always wondered about Miss Fay and her family; as well as the other families renting out parking spaces in the yards we walk past on our way to the stadium.

That’s what this Lippman story is about; it’s from the point of view of a teenager whose family rents out spots in their yard for parking during the Preakness, and the myriad other ways they try to think of to make bank from the race-goers. The young man works as basically what we called at the airport a skycap; helping people lug their full coolers and so forth to the track. On this particular day he helps a really pretty woman who looks like a black-eyed Susan; and the next day he also works to  help clean up the mess at the track. Her coolers are still there, and therein lies a tale. This story is filled with social commentary and it’s done in an incredibly easy way; it’s about the reality of being lower income and scrambling to find ways to make money; and of course, it takes a turn that has nothing to do with the young man who was only peripherally involved. I was worried he might get pulled into the investigation, but I was very pleased with how Lippman handled the story, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

I also read Lippman’s “Ropa Vieja”, from the same collection.

The best Cuban restaurant in Baltimore is in Greektown. It has not occurred to the city’s natives to ponder this, and if an out-of-towner dares to inquire, a shrug is the politest possible reply he or she can expect.

On the fourth day of August, one such native, Tess Monaghan, was a block away from this particular restaurant when she felt that first bead of sweat, the one she thought of as the scout, snaking a path between her breasts and past her sternum. Soon, others would follow, until her T-shirt was speckled with perspiration and the hair at her nape started to frizz. She wasn’t looking forward to this interview, but she was hoping it would last long enough for her Toyota’s air conditioner to get its charge back.

Lippman created the character of Tess Monaghan, an accidental private eye who works the mean streets of Baltimore, in her first novel, Baltimore Blues, and continued writing about her for years before branching out into her brilliant stand alones. The Tess novels are amongst my favorites in private eye fiction, and Lippman began winning awards and making short lists left and right from the very beginning. “Ropa Vieja” is a Tess story; and a good one. It’s been several years since the last Tess novel, Hush Hush, and despite that I slipped easily right back into the rhythm of her voice and her world without issue; it was remarkably easy, like putting on a comfortable old baseball glove or a pair of slippers. This is an interestingly twisted little tale, about a pitcher for the Orioles who got sick on the mound in a late season game; and it had to do with the traditional pre-meal dish of ropa vieja he’d eaten from the afore-mentioned restaurant. The owner hires Tess to somehow prove that it wasn’t the restaurant’s fault–and boy, does this story take some serious turns on its way to its ultimate denouement.

As I’ve mentioned before, Lippman is an extraordinary writer–she’s one of my favorites–and her effortlessly brilliant short stories always are surprising, clever, and smart. I am starting to get a better idea of just how one writes a private eye short story from reading hers; there may actually be a Chanse MacLeod short story brewing in my head–or at least, one featuring his partner that has to do with the recent shutdowns/raids of strip clubs in the Quarter. It would certainly be an interesting experiment to try.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Have a great Sunday, Constant Reader!

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