Working My Way Back to You

Wednesday! Pay the Bills Day! Huzzah? HUZZAH!

I know, right? Pay Day is generally depressing, as I pay the bills and slowly but surely watch the balance in my checking account gradually deplete, and then try to figure out how to stretch what is left for another two weeks. While this is rarely–if ever–fun, there’s something weirdly satisfying about doing it, though; part of the slight OCD problem I’ve suffered from most of my life. Tomorrow morning I also have to get up early–I have to have blood work done, which means fasting, so I basically scheduled it at eight in the morning so I can literally roll out of bed, wash my face and brush my teeth, throw on some clothes and go out the door. (I will, of course, take some coffee with me which I will immediately start guzzling as soon as the blood draw is finished and I can head home to condom packing and lab form quality/assurance–a very big Thursday at the Lost Apartment for one Gregalicious.)

I started working on Chapter Two of Chlorine last night, and I really think I have the voice right–we’ll see as it goes along–but I am in a groove with the book at the moment and I am going to ride this wave as long as I can. I hope to get Chapter Two finished tonight and Chapter Three started; then I am going to work on revising one of the short stories this weekend–probably not a novella (that will require more than a few hours work, I fear)–but I’d like to end July with some stories being submitted, decent progress made on Chlorine, and then to spend August finishing the first draft of Chlorine and possibly revising some the novellas. I’d like to spend October thru December writing another Scotty book, so this time between now and October 1 is going to have to be highly productive if I want to stay on my schedule. I also did some minor tweaking on Chapter 1; I always find that (tweaking/editing an earlier chapter) helpful in finding my way back into my main character’s voice. (I guess that can go under Helpful Writing Hints, can’t it?)

It can, of course, be horribly overwhelming when I sit and think about the projects I currently have in progress; as I got organized over the weekend I did find myself a little taken aback to see that I have nine projects in progress (short story collection, essay collection, three novellas, three novels, an anthology) and that is most definitely going to require some serious focusing in order to get everything finished. I will, of course, continue to have other ideas come along while I am working on all of these things–the more my creativity seems to flourish, the more ideas and thoughts I have ; which is why “Wash Away Sins” popped into my head over the last weekend. But as long as I can stay focused and don’t allow myself too many distractions, I should be able to get everything finished and somehow stay on top of everything.

Stranger things, of course, have happened.

Last night we finished watching Young Royals, which was exceptionally good. It’s a Swedish show, which kicks off when the Queen of Sweden’s second son, Willhelm, gets involved in a viral video while partying at a bar and getting in a fight, so the royal family packs him off to an elite boarding school where he won’t get in trouble. Ha ha ha, famous last words, right? Wille soon becomes attracted to a talented young local kid, Simon, who is also attending the school–and it goes from there. Simon also has an autistic sister with ADHD, Sarah, who is also kind of adopted by the richer, more socially prominent students–which was actually a lovely break with tradition; I assumed they’d bully her mercilessly–and while there are other story-lines, the Wille-Simon romance is the primary driving story of the show, and it’s so beautifully handled and done. (Watching this made me realize how deeply sanitized American queer y/a is; I mean, for generations the primary driver of young adult storylines in books and movies and television shows is “will they have sex? Will they lose their virginity?” And while my experience with the majority of queer y/a is limited to a few things written by straight people that I absolutely detested–the whole “losing one’s virginity” seems to never come up. I guess queer teenaged sexuality is the third rail? There’s an essay in this, methinks) Anyway, it’s a great show and it handles the gay young love storyline really well–tenderly and beautifully and sweetly–and it also doesn’t hurt that the young actors in the leads are very appealing. There are, for example, many sweet scenes where they just sit next to each and cuddle a bit–which I realized was far more intimate than the actual “take off our clothes and get to it” scenes. Highly recommended! I do hope there’s a second season, as the first was quite marvelous.

And now of course we have to find something new to watch. Outer Banks‘ second season, which looks INSANE, doesn’t come out until the end of the month, so we might have to give Gossip Girl on HBO MAX a look-see (we never watched the original).

And now I am boring myself, so I will bring this to a close. Happy Wednesday, Constant Reader!

The Only Way Is Up

I survived the tooth extraction! I am debating whether i want to take some of the painkillers this morning–they didn’t give me anything addicting; prescription strength Tylenol and ibuprofen only, but they made me sleepy and zone in and out all day after I got home, which made yesterday a productivity bust. But my word, how well I slept last night! I do feel pretty amazing this morning–even though I can’t go to the gym again until Monday at the earliest and no solid foods till then either; which means a steady diets of soups, yogurts and protein shakes, which are filling but not satisfying in the least–so I am hoping to get a lot done this morning. We’re going to go visit Pat and Michael this evening–we haven’t seen them since pre-pandemic–and I am very excited about that as well.

So, the plan for today is to write and read and clean and edit–the usual Saturday fare–and we’ll see how that goes. There are two blog entries I’ve begun and not finished; one talking about the first openly gay guy I ever met, and the other about Superman and Lois–so I am hoping to get those written this morning as well. The kitchen has totally slid since I cleaned it Thursday night after work, and so I am going to be doing dishes and organizing and vacuuming this morning around my cleaning (and answering of emails). I want to revisit “Festival of the Redeemer” this weekend, and try to get a first draft of “The Sound of Snow Falling” finished this weekend as well as trying to revise the first chapter of Chlorine. I also have some other in-progress story drafts open on the laptop–one called “Beauty Sleep,” which stalled because i had the opening idea and the title but don’t know where to take it from there, and I think I’m just going to try to write my way out of it. I also want to spend some time pulling what I have available for the next short story collection (This Town and Other Stories) together.

An ambitious plan, to be sure.

I tried watching Camelot yesterday on HBO MAX, and was soon bored of it. It’s simply not a good film–and Franco Nero’s almost unintelligible, heavily accented English would have been fine had the dubbing of his singing also been accented. I saw this movie in the theater when I was a kid–my grandmother took me and my sister to see it at the Colony in Chicago–and LOVED it, but have never seen it since. Maybe it would be better on the big screen–it was letterboxed, so it was meant to be seen that way–but on my big screen television, the magic was lost. It was from that period after movie musicals like West Side Story, My Fair Lady, and The Sound of Music–lavish, enormous spectacles–did huge box office and won lots of Oscars; unfortunately, it also led to expensive gambles–like Camelot, Paint Your Wagon, Dr. Dolittle, and Sweet Charity–that were massive failures (Mark Harris does a great job exploring this phenomenon in his marvelous Pictures at a Revolution; he writes wonderful books about the film industry and I hope there will be a new one soon) that bankrupted studios and eventually ended the movie musical genre (with a few notable exceptions, like Cabaret) for a good long while, which changed the movie industry as well. (hey, Mark–why don’t you write about how the summer spectacle film, beginning with Jaws, also changed the industry by moving it away from the gritty realism and cynicism of the 1970’s? Just a thought).

Okay, I took some painkillers. I don’t know if it was actually pain or discomfort I was feeling, but regardless–there was no need for either when I had pills on hand to take care of it.

I am all about better living through chemistry, and they gave me quite a supply, so I have to assume the mentality is for me to use them as needed–which is what both bottles say anyway.

We watched this week’s Line of Duty–there’s only one more episode, the series finale–and enjoyed it, before switching over to the US Gymnastics Olympic trials. I was drifting in and out of sleep through both, so when they were over, I went to bed–at shortly after nine! And had a great night’s sleep, I might add. We also have this week’s episodes of Physical–which is great, if you’re not watching–and Lisey’s Story–also great–to get caught up on this evening after we get home from Pat and Michael’s. We also want to watch a movie on Disney–Freaky, a riff on Freaky Friday in which a spree killer and a teenage cheerleader switch bodies, which could be either hilarious or awful–and I will probably go to bed early this evening as well. My body is starting to adapt to getting up at six three days a week, and I am not sure if I like it or not. I woke up at 6:30 yesterday morning–imagine my shock to discover, around eleven, that it was only eleven…but I used to always get a lot of work done before noon in the olden days, so maybe this is a return to my old productivity? Maybe NOT getting up early every day was the change that shifted everything?

The jury is still out, and you will, of course, be updated with regularity on this situation as it develops, Constant Reader.

And now, to the spice mines.

Love on the Rocks

Yesterday was kind of lovely, actually.

I got up early because of that weird stress-inducing dream I’d had, and then spent the morning doing things–organizing the kitchen, doing some laundry, taking out trash, vacuuming (God, what a difference a good vacuum cleaner can make; I am so glad I bit the bullet and spent the money on a good one Saturday–and I am reading the manual AND will be taking care of this one, to make it last), and yes–I actually spent some time writing “Festival of the Redeemer,” which was lovely. I am actually enjoying writing this novella or whatever it is going to be–I can’t get it out of my head, so I keep writing on it, even though I should be working on other things, but there’s no deadline for anything and so why not while I wait for my edits on the two manuscripts I turned in? I am trying for a Daphne du Maurier Gothic style, but am trying very hard not to reread “Don’t Look Now” or “Ganymede”–her two Venice stories, much as I desperately want to because I don’t want it to be derivative; I really like the voice, and I like my untrustworthy narrator a lot. (oops, shouldn’t have said that, I suppose) It’s also interesting writing about a dysfunctional couple, one where there is an enormous power differential as well as an undefined relationship; which helps keep my main character off-balance–he wants to know but then he’s afraid to have that conversation because he is afraid of the answer–and while I know how I want this story to end, I am finding my way there slowly; I am just writing in free form without any real sense of what I am writing and where it is going and you know, just seeing where it is going to wind up as I keep writing. I’m not writing at the pace I generally do–but I am writing, which is kind of nice, and there is an element where I kind of want to get this finished instead of putting it aside; I kind of want to finish something since I’ve had so many false starts since turning in the Kansas book. (I’ve also had a few more ideas while working on this, but am just writing notes and coming back to this.)

We had quite a marvelous thunderstorm last night–which was undoubtedly why it was so oppressively humid yesterday; I think I must have sweated out ten pounds of water walking to and from the gym. Oh yes, I made it to the gym again yesterday and the stretching and weight lifting felt absolutely marvelous. I was actually a little surprised that my flexibility gains hadn’t been lost during the fallow weeks of not going, and as the summer continues to get hotter and more humid daily, there will undoubtedly be days when I won’t want to go. But I also need to remember how good I feel during and after–especially the next morning. I also took a lot of pictures on the walk home for Instagram, which I am really starting to enjoy doing. I don’t know why I never really got into Instagram before, but since I love to take pictures and I live in one of the most beautiful–if not the most beautiful–cities in North America…it seems like it’s only natural that I bring them all together into one user app. I’ve talked about how I’ve felt sort of disconnected from New Orleans for a while now–several years at least; I feel like I’m no longer as familiar with the city as I used to be; the changes and gentrification plus all the working I’ve been doing in the years since Katrina have somehow weakened or lost my connection to the city. Yesterday, walking home and detouring a bit around Coliseum Square, I felt connected to the city again in a way I hadn’t in a long time. I also took and posted a picture of the house where Paul and I first lived when we moved here in 1996; the house, in fact, where Chanse MacLeod lives and runs his business from…we were living there when I wrote Murder in the Rue Dauphine, in fact…and I started remembering things from when we lived there and were new to the city. This is a good thing, making me feel anchored and tethered to the city again, and if I am going to write another Scotty book–well, the strength of my books set in New Orleans is that sense of love for the city I always feel and try to get across in the work.

I also had weird dreams last night. I rested well, but drifted in and out of sleep most of the night. I’m not sure what the deal is with the dreams; I dreamt that someone I went to high school with in the Chicago suburbs came to New Orleans with some of her friends from her current life and wanted to connect again; and I did so, primarily out of curiosity other than anything else. (Maybe it was all the tourists I saw out and about yesterday?) But it was very strange–going to the casino and watching them drink the insane tourist-targeted colored drinks; meeting them at their hotel on the West Bank, listening to them talk about New Orleans to me in the insane and often offensive ways tourists will speak to locals about the place where we live, not even realizing they are being insulting and offensive. I don’t know; I cannot say for certain what is the deal with the weird dreams lately, but I’ve been having them.

We rewatched Victor/Victoria last night–we’ve been talking about rewatching it for a while now, and it recently was added to HBO MAX. I don’t remember what brought it up, or what made us think about it–I know it was Paul who did; I had already added it to my watchlist when it dropped and when he said he wanted to watch it again, I replied, “Its on the HBO app so we can, whenever we want to” and so last night we did–primarily to see if it still worked, if it was still funny, and watching it–a relatively tame movie, really–last night I remembered (rather, we remembered) how incredibly subversive it was at the time it was released in 1982; it depicted homosexuality and drag in a nonjudgmental way years before being gay was less offensive to society at large, as well as bringing drag into the mainstream years before RuPaul’s Drag Race. The performances are stellar–especially Robert Preston and Lesley Anne Warren in supporting roles–and the humor is kind of farcical and slapstick, which never really ages; as Paul said, “that kind of humor is kind of timeless.” It also struck me that it was very Pink Panther-like; the film, not the cartoon–which makes sense since Blake Edwards wrote, directed and produced both. Some of it wouldn’t play today, of course, and the movie probably couldn’t be made today–some of the sex humor was misogynistic, not to mention men trying to spy on “Victor” to find out if he was really a man or a woman, which is incredibly invasive and horrible, plus it was very binary about gender and gender roles. 1982 was also the year of Tootsie, which I also kind of want to rewatch now to see how it holds up as well. It would seem that both films–which were both critical and box office hits , rewarded with scores of Oscar nominations–seemed to signal a new direction for Hollywood when it came to queerness and gender; it was also around this time that the soapy Making Love was released as well. but HIV/AIDS was breaking around this time as well, and soon the repressive politics of the 1980’s would change everything.

Tonight after work I am going to run some errands and then I am going to be guesting on Eric Beetner’s podcast, along with Dharma Kelleher, to talk about three queer writers everyone should be reading year-round, not just during Pride Month. That should be interesting; I am also appearing on a panel for the San Francisco Public Library tomorrow night being moderated by Michael Nava–one of my heroes–which should also be interesting and fun.

And on that note, it is time to go back to the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader.

Cherish

Saturday and the coast is clear, I think?

Today I am going to venture out to run some errands and then probably (possibly) brave the horrible heat to head over to the gym. I also want to get a lot of writing and cleaning and so forth done today–yes, yes, what else is new, I know–but I was able to get the car back yesterday and then we ventured to Costco before coming home to collapse like heavy woolen blankets that didn’t completely dry in the dryer.

Christ it is hot this June.

Paul did point out that last June probably was just as hot–which reminded me of working the screening desk in the garage at work and getting dehydration sickness (HYDRATE PEOPLE)–and then he also pointed out May was unusually mild and much rainier than usual, so the bitch slap of the return of your usual New Orleans summer weather felt even nastier than it generally does when it happens.

I am tired this morning, despite sleeping like a stone. I was tired yesterday–any amount of time spent out of doors in this type of New Orleans weather is exhausting and draining (and I am not, alas, in as good of physical condition as I should be; but despite the draining nature of this weather I draw the line at driving the short distance to the gym, which is simply insane and goes against the entire idea of going to the gym in the first place)–and while I need to, am trying to, exercise and be more conscious of self-care, I cannot allow the weather to keep me from doing things. (Yesterday when we picked up the car–shout out to Dawn, our amazing Lyft driver–it was 97 degrees and morbidly humid; after the Costco trip and unloading the car, all I really wanted to do was curl up in a corner in the air conditioning and hide for the rest of the evening. But there were other things that needed doing, so I wrote for a while (adding about another thousand words to “Festival of the Redeemer”), finished some laundry (I just heard the dryer click off from a fluff cycle, since I left the clothes in there over night), and then we finished watching an absolutely delightful HBO MAX show called Starstruck, which is incredibly charming, funny, and sweet–the premise is a young woman who has two horrible dead-end jobs, approaches life with a kind of grin and sense of humor but is really adrift, hooks up with someone one New Year’s who turns out to be a major film star–and follows their back-and-forth fumbling towards a relationship. The chemistry between them is absolutely fantastic, and we absolutely loved it. Rose Matafeo plays Jessie (she’s also the writer of the show) and she is just perfect; while Tom Kapoor, the movie star, is also perfectly played by Nikesh Patel–the cast is perfect down to the smallest role. The irony of the show is Jessie is positively NOT starstruck; she finds his celebrity appalling and a barrier to any possibility of a relationship between the two. Constant Reader, I think you would love it. It’s probably one of the most charming shows I’ve seen, up there with Schitt’s Creek, Ted Lasso, and Kim’s Convenience–which is high praise indeed.

Someone tweeted at me yesterday about having finished Mardi Gras Mambo and having tears in their eyes by the end; which was absolutely a lovely thing and an incredibly pleasant reminder that I kind of needed…we so often as writers live in a vacuum, and the negativity out there about our work is so intrusive and debilitating sometimes that it’s always lovely when someone who enjoyed your work reaches out to let you know. Thank you, person on Twitter that I don’t know; you made my evening…and it really takes so little.

I read a wonderful article in LA Review of Books written by Michael Nava yesterday (he really is a treasure; I am so delighted he has taken up the Henry Rios character again), which was the second part (I somehow missed the first and will be looking for it today) about the history of queer publishing. This was about the Golden Age, from the late 1970’s to the mid-1990’s; and reading it reminded me of so many names that I hadn’t forgotten but simply hadn’t thought about in a very long time. I came into queer publishing around this time, as a book reviewer for the New Orleans queer newspaper Impact; eventually branching out into national queer glossies and Lambda Book Report, where I actually wound up working; first as an assistant editor for about five months before taking over as editor for a year. I made many friends during that year and a half at LBR; it was while I was working there that Michael ended the Henry Rios series (I got Katherine Forrest to interview him and put him on the cover, using my very poor and picked-up-on-the-job Adobe Photoshop skills to pull together my most ambitious cover design to date; I have all the issues I worked on in a box up in the storage attic…and reading Michael’s piece made me think about bringing that box down and going through them, for the sake of the memories they would bring back for me–and then I thought, wow you sure have been experiencing a lot of nostalgia this year and decided to skip it for now), which was heartbreaking for me, a long-time fan. I left LBR–which in many ways was my dream job–just before the release of my first book, Murder in the Rue Dauphine, because I felt I couldn’t really run a review magazine focusing on queer lit while I was also publishing my own fiction; I felt it created too much of a conflict of interest. I still stand my that decision–a lot of people were disappointed that I stepped down from the job; I remember one legendary queer writer telling me I was “destroying my career” by doing so (I think things worked out rather well, though; always trust your own instincts). I continued reviewing books for a few more years, but really felt uncomfortable doing so; for me, as a writer of queer fiction, it seemed–and still does–like a conflict of interest and so eventually I stopped being a paid reviewer. Now, of course, I review the occasional book I loved here on the blog; but I am not being paid for my opinion and I won’t talk about a book I didn’t like on here…I also don’t write about every book I read on this blog, either; and sometimes I worry that people think I didn’t like their book if I don’t review it…but then I remind myself that reviewing books isn’t the point of this blog, and it never has been….the blog is something I primarily write for myself, and I’m not interested in having a book review blog. I love reading for pleasure, and really, when I do write about a book I loved on here it’s to emphasize how much I love to read more than anything else.

And I really do need to get back to reading more.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. There’s a lot on the agenda today, and randomly riffing on my musings here isn’t going to get any of it done. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and see you on the morrow.

Truth

Friday! I am up ridiculously early on what would ordinarily be a work-at-home day, but I actually have taken a personal day today because I have to take my desktop to the Apple Store in Metairie at nine this morning. Yes, I finally broke down and decided to see if there’s anything that can be done with it. Last week, I had to take Paul out there to buy a cord for his phone (and a remote for the Apple TV, since somehow ours disappeared) and I asked them about loading an operating system into it; the guy said they’d do it for free, so I made the appointment. I don’t entirely trust Apple, though, so I am expecting that it either will cost me money, or they’ll tell me the computer is irreparable or something. Heavy sigh, it’s always something, isn’t it?

I couldn’t sleep last night–par for the course, really, anymore–and so at six this morning I just gave up and got up. I am going to try to swill down enough coffee to make me lucid before having to drive out there. I’m going to also see if I can buy replacement watchbands–I have two watches with broken bands–while I am at the mall, even though the rest of the mall doesn’t open until eleven. I am taking a book with me, and of course will have my phone, as I plan to simply wait there at the mall until my computer is ready. If it’s going to take more than a few hours, I *may* drive home and then go back out there again; I don’t know. I guess I will see what they say when I check the computer in…I know when Wendy and I went to the Apple Store in Tampa during Bouchercon several years ago to get her phone repaired, they said it wouldn’t take more than an hour but we were there for hours, waiting–so these things generally, inevitably, always take longer than they say.

I have other errands I am going to do today; I had two other appointments–doctor and eye doctor–but in an odd weird coincidence, both were cancelled yesterday afternoon…a pain in the ass, to be sure, but what can I do? I was trying to be efficient and do everything I need to do in Metairie on the same day, but it was, alas, not to be.

We got caught up on Mare of Easttown last night, and started watching a documentary about the opioid epidemic on HBO MAX, The Crime of the Century, which was very well done and really horrifying to watch–it’s just another example of how fucked up this country is, and what an enormously flawed system capitalism actually is; when there is no legal accountability for a pharmaceutical company for addicting millions of Americans deliberately, and elected officials and doctors are complicit, what hope does anyone have for justice? Addiction has always terrified me–I have had mental addictions before, but thank God no physical cravings for anything–and it’s one of the many reasons I try to be careful with my alprazolam prescription; I am out and cannot have it refilled again until July–so hold on to your hats as my moods are going to start swinging and my anxiety is going to get out of control again, yippee! But it’s probably best that I go cold turkey on it for a couple of months…anyway, back to the opioids. I never really quite understood the connection between oxycontin and heroin before; why people who became addicted to an opioid would then go to heroin; I knew it happened, but never completely made the connection that, for all intents and purposes, oxycontin was simply a legal, pure form of stronger heroin. I myself have been prescribed oxycontin before–for pain–but I also have always had a high tolerance for pain and so never needed to use every pill prescribed; being able to take a couple to get through the intense pain and then handling it on my own after that without taking anything. I can certainly see how one can become addicted to it–it’s lovely to not have pain, after all, and you also never realize how many aches and pains you deal with on a daily basis (and think nothing of) until you take something that makes all of that go away. For people who have chronic pain, this is the choice they are given: live in pain or become a drug addict, and possibly die from an overdose.

Addiction is yet another big subject I’ve never tackled in my own fiction; I was always very careful to make certain I didn’t give in to the incredibly easy trope of the alcoholic (or hard drinking) private eye–there are very few who manage to do it well, make it fresh, have something new to say about it. J. M. Redmann’s Micky Knight series is one where it works; Micky’s fondness for whiskey (particularly fine Scotch) never really crosses the line into an alcoholism trope; I have written about drinking too much and having a hangover and having to deal with reality while suffering from the after-effects of binge drinking; that is something I am familiar enough with to write about, although I always fear I have gone to that well far too often. I often question myself too much, I think, about my work, and in addition to my frequent imposter syndrome, I always am worried that I am repeating myself in my work; something that becomes all too easy the older I get and the more I have written and the more my memory declines.

As my body continues to break down and decay as it ages, that’s part of the reason I am hopeful my desktop computer can be easily be repaired and made usable again; I need the big screen to view and work on. I have tried, for the longest time, to get used to using the small screen of my laptop and be able to work on it–I really have no choice, but it has made me feel incredibly disconnected from my work and like I am not working the way I should be, and my lack of productivity over the past few years has been directly connected to having to work on this MacBook Air. I have already decided if the computer is irreparable, I am going to probably go ahead and use my tax refund to buy a new desktop; it is a tax deduction, inevitably, even if I don’t want to spend the money, it is a necessary work tool. I don’t fool myself into thinking it will actually solve my productivity issues, by any means, but it will help–and once I’ve spent the money, I think I can make myself do the work if for no other reason than for the fact that I spent all that money.

Sigh. It also just occurred to me that the computer may not even get worked on today; they might just be checking it in and at some point it’ll be ready over the weekend or next week….

On that cheery thought, I need to get in the shower and ready to head for Metairie. May your Friday be lovely and marvelous, Constant Reader.

Evil Dust

The sun is actually out today and there aren’t many–if any–clouds in our beautiful blue sky this morning, which is lovely. It’s rained pretty constantly ever since Tuesday afternoon, and everything outside is still wet from nearly a week of rain. I love rain–especially thunderstorms–but even I thought five straight days of them was a bit extreme. I wound up running my errands in the rain yesterday–I dropped off another five boxes of books to the Ladder Library sale yesterday (you actually can tell now that I’ve gotten rid of books)–and made groceries and got the mail. It was pouring while I did all of this, so my plans to go to the gym yesterday were finally scrapped. I also wound up taking the day off from almost everything yesterday–I think I needed a brain-free day, frankly–and so we watched a lot of television–we binged all the way through a delightful comedy called The Other Two, watched the Tom Holland movie Cherry on Apple Plus, and then switched over to Acorn for a riveting crime show called The Cry.

Yes, I was a slug all day and I am not a bit ashamed of it.

Oh, sure, I had my journal with me and scribbled notes freeform all day–my favorite is that I came up with a short story title I now HAVE to use, “To Live and Die in La.”, while having absolutely no idea what the story would actually be, but I laughed at the title and now want to. use it–so I did do something. But today I have to start revising/copy editing/making notes on Bury Me in Shadows–due to be returned to my editor no later than the first of May–and so, if I do go to the gym today (leaning towards it, since it’s sunny out) I can curl up in my easy chair to do it, so that’s a start. I really need to work on my story–the deadline for that submission call is May 15, I believe–and so I need to kick everything up a notch this week. I am getting caught up on a lot of other things as well–it’s never-ending, and have also accepted that I only have so much bandwidth for things. The emails, for example…I’ll never get caught up on those, ever…so I need to prioritize and so forth in order to get through everything that absolutely needs to be responded to immediately.

I also need to spend some time getting organized and cleaning a bit this morning. There’s filing to be done, of course–always–and somehow the kitchen looks like a tornado ripped through here (not completely an exaggeration, to be honest) and I need to get that taken care of this morning. I have a load of laundry to do, and there’s always dishes–always. I also want to organize the refrigerator a bit more this morning. Since the sun is out, I’ll probably grill hamburgers later on this afternoon, which is always an absolute treat (I really prefer all meat to be cooked over hot charcoal, frankly–or at least, most). I am also a bit excited that the next step of book decluttering (and yes, I am aware I am completely Marie Kondo-ing my apartment) is to go up into the storage attic and start clearing the boxes up there. This will, of course, be more complicated than the bookcases and the hidden boxes in the living room, since I’ll have to bring them down and go through them, combining the ones to keep (I can’t imagine there will be many of those) while putting aside the ones to donate. The goal is to clear out enough space in the storage attic so I can clean out my storage rental and close that account; most of the books in the storage are copies of my own books (and my kids’ series collection) along with some other things–mostly papers–and it would be nice to either no longer have that bill every month, or to use that space for other things…but at the moment I can’t think of anything that we’d need to keep it for.

But it would be great to lose that bill by the end of the summer.

Not as great as paying off the car, but still pretty good.

I think I’m going to add Semi-Tough to the donate pile. The first three pages are nothing but racial slurs as well as justifications for using them, and how the main character–it’s a first person narrative–isn’t really racist and the slurs are just words that don’t mean offense and so on–and yeah, I really don’t feel like spending any of my time with that kind of character. I certainly wouldn’t in real life–imagine being at dinner or a cocktail party and the person you are talking to says, and this is a direct quote from page one: Just because I may happen to say (the n-word) doesn’t mean I’m a racist.

Um, actually it does. It says a lot about you, who you are, and how you were raised, as well as how you see people and the world.

And I really have no desire to read a book filled with racial slurs…because you KNOW its also full of gay slurs, too–and most likely without the caveat justifying the racial slurs: Now listen, just because I say “faggot” doesn’t mean I’m homophobic.

Sure, Jan.

There are so many other good books to read, why reread something I originally read as a teen that plays on racism and homophobia and misogyny for humor? I stopped rereading The Last Picture Show, a book I absolutely loved, a few years ago when it got to the part about bestiality, and how it was perfectly normal for the teen boys to fuck animals…I closed the book and put it away. I may go back and reread the entire thing at some point–the reason I was rereading it in the first place was to examine how it handles homosexuality–which I distinctly remembered it doing–but I don’t think I was able to get far enough into it to get to that part. I know that Coach Popper–long-suffering Ruth’s awful husband–was a deeply repressed one, who favored one of the more athletic boys primarily because of his attraction to him; that the preacher’s son Billy Bob Blanton was often mocked and teased and bullied and humiliated for being a “four-eyed queer” (before he molests a little girl, after which he’s taken away as a pervert); and that the heterosexual English teacher, who was cultured and sensitive and kind, was accused by the coach of impure thoughts and fired (everyone, of course, would never suspect the manly football coach of anything, or question him); and I remembered a particular poignant scene between the fired English teacher–who’s been fired, whose wife has left him and taken their daughters and filed for divorce–and Ruth, where he’s just so beaten down and defeated that it’s heartbreaking. But yeah–that whole “boys will be boys” attitude towards bestiality was too much for me to get through again.

The Last Two is a terrific show, and quite funny. Paul and I really enjoyed it; the premise of the show is the two older children are in their late twenties–one is a struggling actor whose most recent audition was for a commercial in which he would play “Party-goer who smells a fart”; the daughter had wanted to become a dancer until she broke her ankle and dropped out of dance school and cannot figure out what she wants to do with the rest of her life–when suddenly, their thirteen year old brother puts up a video of him singing a ridiculous song (“Marry Me at Recess”) and becomes an overnight viral sensation with a record deal and a manager under the name “Chase Dreams”; which makes them feel even more like losers. The older brother, Cary, is also gay and in a weird relationship with his straight roommate; the daughter has broken up with her boyfriend and is now homeless at the beginning of the show. I thought it was terrific, frankly, and look forward to season two.

My primary takeaway from Cherry is that Tom Holland is an amazingly talented actor–he really gives a stunning performance as a poor young man who falls in love, gets his heart broken and joins the military, serves as a medic in Iraq and comes home to nothing but PTSD and drug addiction, which leads him to a life of crime. It’s a very dark story–but also weirdly a love story at the same time–and I don’t think the film, worked overall; the Russo Brothers, who directed, turned it into this big grand opera style thing in the way they shot it; to the point where the beautiful imagery is almost intrusive. It’s a very real story–based on a true story–and it highlights, very powerfully, how we abandon our troops completely after their service is over (since they’re no longer the troops….”support the troops” makes me angry because it is used primarily as a political prop and the actual soldiers themselves suffer in silence and neglect while we give billionaires and corporations every break in the world), but it’s worth watching for Tom Holland’s performance–he was also fantastic in The Devil All The Time–and it’s really nice to see him pushing himself in his non-superhero roles (he’s also the best, in my opinion, Spider-Man).

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!

I Told You So

Finally, a good night’s sleep last night, and I feel rested finally–physically, emotionally, and intellectually–for the first time this week. I didn’t sleep through the night–I was awakened just before four this morning by a simply marvelous thunderstorm; lightning so close it was simply a white flash and then thunder claps that seemed to go on forever as the rain came down torrentially; the emergency notification alerts also came through on both of our phones at the same time. I didn’t get out of bed–I assumed it was a flash flood warning, given the strength of the downpour–but upon rising this morning you can imagine my shock to check my phone to see that it was a tornado warning “for this area”. However, in checking just now I don’t see any tornado reports for the area, but we were in a flash flood warning for four hours (it actually ends in about fifteen minutes–but it’s clear outside). The storms dropped three to five inches of rain a couple of hours–which means at some point I should go make sure the car didn’t get water inside.

But there really isn’t anything like being in bed, warm and comfortable under the blankets, while it’s pouring down rain outside.

I am working at home today, and I have to also get the apartment ready for the delivery of my new washing machine at some point tomorrow. I think I am going to have to take the saloon doors off the laundry room–that’s not going to be much fun–and I am also going to take the bottom shelf down from above where the washer and dryer sit for maneuverability purposes, as well as getting some other things out of the way to make it as easy as possible for the delivery guys. It’s going to be lovely, frankly, having a washing machine again–there’s a load of clothes that needs to be washed, and I also want to do the bed linens, since I couldn’t last week–and hopefully, that will do away with this weird, slightly off way I’ve been feeling since the washer broke last Wednesday night and flooded the laundry room and kitchen.

I think I’ve also been feeling more than a little off-center (off-kilter, off my game, whatever) because I was already not centered as I went into the big (and exhausting) push last weekend to get the book finished and turned in. Finishing a book is always an enormous relief, but that final push to get it done is always, inevitably, exhausting on every level–and then having to get up early for work (or to take Paul to Touro) just wore me down. Insomnia also bedeviled me almost every night this week (until last night, thank the Lord), so finally getting rested last night was most essential and very important. Paul got home late as well, so I sat in my easy chair for most of the evening going down Youtube video wormholes because I was really too tired to be able to focus on reading…although I am hoping to get back to The Russia House after I complete my work-at-home duties today as well as get everything moved around that needs to be moved around preparatory to tomorrow’s washer delivery.

And now I’ve got serial killers on the brain. A friend tipped me off to a series on HBO MAX, Very Scary People, which takes on serial rapists, mass murderers (yes, there’s two episodes about the Manson family) and serial killers. There’s a new book idea formulating in my head–when isn’t there, really?–and I’ve been making notes and so forth this past week, as well as looking up more information about Dean Corll on-line…plus I’ve been trying to remember the early 1970’s and life in suburban Chicago, which is where and when the book will be set. I know, I know, I’m going to write Chlorine next–when my creative batteries have completely recharged and reset–and I also have some submission calls I want to submit short stories to. I wanted to spend this week doing just that–writing/revising/editing short stories–but I just haven’t had the bandwidth to focus and look at the calls (and the in-progress stories I want to write for them) to figure out when things would be due and how much work would need to be done, etc. But I think it’s okay for me to take a week to let my brain recalibrate.

AH, so much to do and as always, the clock is ticking.

I’ve also started reading Barbara Tuchman’s The Zimmerman Telegram. Everything I’ve read of Tuchman’s has become a favorite (A Distant Mirror may be the best history I’ve ever read), and while I have yet to get through her entire canon (The Guns of August is still in my TBR pile), I thought it would be interesting to read this tale of the inflammatory telegram that was primarily responsible for the United States entering the first World War. (I’ve also become very interested–primarily through the writing of my Sherlock Holmes story–in the historical period from, say, 1910-1930, particularly in New Orleans. I would love to write more Holmes pastiches, but am not entirely sure there’s a market for them; I do have one on deck right now–one of the afore-mentioned short stories in progress; I am trying to decide if writing a Holmes pastiche for the submission call would be a smart thing to do, or whether I should just write the story and leave Holmes out of it entirely.) This creative ADHD thing really does suck sometimes…but I am going to actually not berate myself for my brain being all over the map this week because–well, damn it, I just wrote two books totally approximately 195,000 words in total over the course of about five months, give or take. My brain should be fried.

And on that note, I am going to head back into the spice mines. I need to get some things done before I start working for the day. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader.

Shellshock

And Monday rolls around again; but this is a short work week thanks to Good Friday and Easter; the book is due on Thursday (YIKES) but I am still thinking I can manage to get it turned in on time (hope brings eternal). I got some good work done on it yesterday, and am ever hopeful I can get more done tonight when I get home from work–which would be lovely. I also managed to make it to the gym yesterday, which was delightful (despite the annoying other people there) and am also looking forward to a very short work week this week–well, it’s a three day weekend this weekend; thank you, Catholic southeastern Louisiana!

I am a little out of it this morning; groggy Greggy, if you will. Not sure what that’s all about–I didn’t think I had much trouble sleeping last night, but I did wake up once around four–but this morning I don’t feel completely awake, either, and thus far am having a little trouble focusing this morning. Hopefully when the caffeine kicks in, the focus will improve. Or not. We’ll have to see how it goes.

I’m not sure why I am so not myself this morning. Like I said, I thought I had slept well last night, but had trouble waking up fully; my legs are also tired, but that’s undoubtedly from making it to the gym yesterday–my legs usually are a bit achy the day after a workout–and I am hoping I’ll get whatever rest it is I need tonight when I go to bed; Tuesdays are a difficult day for me to make it to the gym after a day of work–and my patience for other people is very slim on those nights, so inevitably I wind up readjusting my workout or skipping an exercise because, well, people. I am adjusting to my new gym, but I still miss my old one. We were members there for seventeen years; our membership would have able to VOTE this year. I still am hoping to get to the point by May that I can change up the workout from a full body workout to arms/shoulders, chest/back, and leg days…and I am very pleased with the changes to my body.

We watched Tina last night on HBO MAX, and my word, what a force of nature Tina Turner is, such a gift to us all. Those live performances in the documentary are just mind-blowing; I remember seeing the Ike and Tina Turner Review on television when I was a kid doing “Proud Mary” and was all, wow, who is she? She is amazing. I always followed her career throughout the 1970’s–when she was making the rounds of TV shows and doing Vegas and cabaret shows to pay off the debt she took on when she left Ike–and kept thinking, she should be a much bigger star than she is….so imagine my delight when Private Dancer was released. The big hit single from the album, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” wasn’t a favorite of mine, but I was certain the album would be magnificent–and I was right. I still listen to it all these years later, and I am really happy she became the superstar she always deserved to be. I never read her autobiography–I also never saw the film, despite wanting to see the performances, because I didn’t want to see the anger and the abuse, frankly. Obviously, her story is a part of the culture now; I know what happened to her, what she went through, and what she overcame…but it really hit home watching Tina. It resonated with me all too well–I know what it’s like to stop caring about yourself and your life far too intimately–but if you’re a fan of Ms. Turner, I can’t recommend the documentary enough….it also made me want to listen to every Tina Turner playlist I have on Spotify.

And on that note, I am going to try to kick the cobwebs out and get some things done before I head into the office. Have a great Monday, Constant Reader!

Crystal

Friday!

It’s gray outside this morning; and the temperature has dropped since the rain of the other night. Yesterday’s high was in the 60’s; today’s apparently will be as well. I don’t mind this–surprise!–because I was a bit concerned about it already climbing into the 80’s in March already, which didn’t bode well for this coming summer. So this cool break is a bit nice–and it’s also nice to not go get into my car and start sweating because the sun’s been shining into it all day plus it being hot outside. Yesterday was also a bit nice because 1) Paul was able to get his second vaccination for COVID-19, and I spent the day making condom packs and doing other, various work-at-home duties. As my fingers and hands worked through the condom packing, I spent some time thinking through what I need to do with the book this weekend, which is always helpful. I also got caught cup with this week’s episode of Superman and Lois, which I am greatly enjoying; the television adaptations of DC Comics continues to outshine the film universe. I am debating where I want to spend four hours watching the Snyder cut of Justice League–four hours is a big commitment–and I also discovered, browsing through my many streaming apps last night, any number of films to add to my watchlists.

(Aside–they are hanging new gutters on the house next door and I can see them going up and down those shaky, rickety extension ladders–whose bases are braced against the wooden fence between the properties. As they go up and down the ladders shake–which is one of many reasons I will never climb an extension ladder–and watching the corresponding movements/shaking of the wooden planks in the fence. I should also add that Michael, our neighbor to the front with his partner John, has retired from his job and has started working on the flower beds that run alongside the fence, which have been disaster areas ever since Katrina, and is doing a very nice job making them look pleasant and appealing and all cleaned up.)

As I looked through HBO MAX looking for something to watch for the rest of my condom packing, I came across Inside Daisy Clover, a film from the mid-60’s that is supposedly one of those “gritty insider looks at Hollywood”. It stars include Natalie Wood, Christopher Plummer, and Robert Redford; and I vaguely remembered Ruth Gordon was nominated for an Oscar for it. I also had a vague memory that the character of Daisy Clover was, in theory, based on Judy Garland, so I thought what the hell and queued it up. This morning, I cannot believe I sat through the entire thing–it was really that dreadful and pointless–and it really was squirm-worthy. When the story opens Daisy is fifteen, leaving in a trailer along the boardwalk at Angel Beach with her not-quite-all-there mother (Ruth Gordon) who has a great natural singing voice, records it and sends it to Swan Studios. Daisy has basically, for all intents and purposes, been raised by wolves, has no manners or filters, and while she is quite pretty beneath the grime and strange haircut (those eyes! Natalie Wood was so beautiful), her getting signed by Swan Studios and being groomed by studio head (Ray Swan–played to odious perfection by Plummer) seems a bit of a stretch. She is marketed as “America’s Little Valentine” and immediately becomes hugely successful. She also becomes involved with another star, Wade Lewis (Redford), who is heir to a vast fortune and a completely one-dimensional cad–which becomes really creepy on two levels–first, she’s supposedly a teenager (Wood was at least in her late twenties by then) and Wade is in his late twenties/early thirties, which is creepy to say the least (studio head Swan refers to her as “America’s Little Jailbait” in one cringeworthy scenes), and then, after he deflowers her, is ordered to marry her or be arrested for corruption of a minor. (The second creepy part is Wade lives on a sailboat anchored just off the coast; seeing Wood on a sailboat or heading to and from one on a motorboat, given how she died, is foreboding and squirm-inducing) They do marry; they spend their wedding night in a motel in some remote location in Arizona, and when she wakes up he’s left her there without a word, stranded. After her mother’s death, she has a breakdown of sorts on set and is unable to continue working, which delays the picture and puts her at odds with the studio–which has spoiled and indulged her so far, but not anymore. The movie’s ending is neither a conclusion or an actual resolution, not a real end; it just….ends. We don’t know what Daisy is going to do–but again, it’s cringy. Inside Daisy Clover could have been a chilling and realistic exposé of the old studio system; it could have shown how an innocent but strong-minded young woman is corrupted and changed and turned into a monster by the system because of her talent–the film does none of these. Daisy is still the same impulsive, emotionally needy mess at the end that she was at the beginning, and such an incredible waste of Wood’s talent. She plays the character without any depth or interior; she plays her like an uncontrollable brat, and the performance doesn’t really ring true. All I kept thinking as I watched was that Wood was miscast–the lip-syncing was especially bad–and about half-way through I thought, this script is terrible and the direction equally bad, but Liza Minnelli could have killed in this part; it was perfect for her. The truth was the title was a misnomer–at the end of the movie we’ve not gotten “inside” Daisy at all but rather skimmed over the surface….and to make matters worse, by the end of the movie she is only seventeen.

America’s little jailbait, indeed.

It is a shame; Hollywood did some amazing films that exposed stardom and the Hollywood machine quite expertly; think of Sunset Boulevard and even though it was set in the theater world, All About Eve. Quite frankly, both book and movie of Valley of the Dolls handled the same subject–the coddling of talent resulting in the creation of a monster–much better.

I started reading The Russia House by John LeCarré yesterday while I waited for Paul to get his shot and then wait to make sure there was no reaction to it; it’s quite good–the writing in particular and voice are exceptional; it’s also world-weary, snarky and funny–and am really looking forward to getting back to spend some more time with it. It will depend on how the work goes, of course; my priority around my day job is going to have to be the book until April 1. (although…April 1 is the day before Good Friday and in theory, I could use that three-day weekend to finish the push to finishing the book; or I could finish on time and spend that weekend relaxing and preparing myself for the next project on the list)

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you tomorrow morning.

Be a Rebel

And it’s Thursday now. Yesterday was an odd day, really; the water finally came back on just before or right around noon, and yes, I luxuriated in having running water for the rest of the day. I took a long hot shower (lovely), washed dishes and ran the dishwasher, and did a load of laundry. I probably washed my face about every hour on the hour. It was absolutely lovely–but am also sure I will eventually start taking running water for granted again soon. But…still, it was marvelous when it came back on; absolutely marvelous.

I wound up taking a personal day yesterday so I wouldn’t have to do much of anything; the first two days of the week I had felt somewhat off my game, for some reason, and with the water situation, I decided it made the most sense to take the day off and recalibrate my brain; it may have worked, I am not entirely sure–but I know I slept really well last night and feel rested this morning. It’s also hard for me to believe that it was nearly a year ago when the entire country shut down; in my wildest dreams I never expected all of this to go on for as long as it has. But at least here I am, a year later, vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus yet still adjusting to a world and life that seems to change somehow every day. When I went to work for the airline, the very first thing we were told in training was “The only constant in this business is change–and it can change from hour to hour” and I thought, well, that’s kind of like life itself and kind of adopted it as a sort of motto for a while. It eventually evolved into what has become Scotty’s philosophy of life: life doesn’t hand you anything you can’t handle, it’s how you handle it that matters.

So, I got caught up on my chores yesterday. In the afternoon (before the long, luxurious shower) I walked to the gym. It was a glorious day; beautiful weather with the cerulean sky and no clouds and a nice cool breeze and in the low seventies; I again marvelous at how gorgeous the city of New Orleans actually is. There’s a lot of city work going on–I think it’s Entergy–so it seems like every block in my immediately neighborhood has at least one place where the sidewalk had been torn out and an enormous hole dug; it’s roped off so you have to walk in the street (and sometimes around parked cars). I’m not exactly sure what all this work is (I also suspect that an accident by the Entergy people could be why our water was off), but one thing I know for sure about New Orleans is that our infrastructure is crumbling. Oh, sure, there have been a lot of improvements (the years of construction on Rampart Street as they relaid the streetcar line is one example) made throughout the city, that doesn’t eliminate the fact that most of our sewage and water pipes are over a hundred years old and in some cases made from lead (which is why you never drink tap water in the city unless it’s been filtered), and of course our constantly shifting ground means unfillable potholes that just grow and grow–they’ve been filling and refilling the massive one on our street for years, to no avail as the filling just sinks and disappears into the yawning opening; sometimes I wonder if it’s one of the gates of Guinee that are theoretically scattered throughout the city–and of course the flooding during heavy rains doesn’t help that at all. New Orleans is an improbable and impossible city but one that is absolutely necessary (you can probably tell I am thinking a lot about New Orleans again lately; there’s a Scotty book percolating in my brain on the back burner that I will get to later this year).

Yesterday I was scrolling through the HBO Max app on the television and, like always, went to the Recently Added line and saw, to my great delight, that The Lost Boys had been added for streaming. I hadn’t seen the movie in years, and was actually thinking about it the other day–someone on Facebook had mentioned the soundtrack, which I actually had on vinyl over thirty years ago and really liked–and voilá, there it was. I saw in the theater back in the day when it was a first release, loved it, and watched it several more times once it was on video or cable (remember when the purpose of channels like HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime was to simply show movies endlessly?). I’ve always been fond of the film, and so thought why not give it another whirl and see it it holds up after all this time? It’s a good film–visually stunning, really–and is also memorable for giving Dianne Wiest one of her first major film roles, following her Oscar win for Hannah and Her Sisters. It was clearly intended for young viewers, who’d grown up and mature with MTV–hence the great visual look of the film–and while there were some holes in the script (the boys had never once been to their grandfather’s home for a visit, despite the fact he lived in a resort town on the California coast?) the casting was excellent–Keifer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Jamie Gertz, and the two Coreys (Haim and Feldman), and even a pre-Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure Alex Winter as one of the gang of young biker vampires. It was shot on location in Santa Cruz, which was another reason the film endeared itself to me; I’d spent time in Santa Cruz and loved the offbeat town (and have always wanted to write about it) and had explored many of the places that showed up in the film. It was an enjoyable watch, if not particularly involving, and the acting isn’t particularly deep; and it is very much an 80’s film–the clothes, the hair, the soundtrack–and I was amused to see that the young gang of vampire Sutherland leads looks like nothing so much as an 80’s hair metal band. But the soundtrack also still holds up…it’s just a shame to see how charismatic and talented the Coreys were before their lives and careers went to hell.

This morning I have data entry to do, and then of course this afternoon the inevitable condom packing. I haven’t decided what to watch for today as of yet–I’ve been thinking Saturday Night Fever was due a rewatch and was going to queue it up yesterday, but then I remembered the gang rape scene (although it wasn’t called that in the movie) and how cretinous the guys are…and despite the soundtrack and relative importance of the film, I just wasn’t feeling it. I do want to rewatch it sometime, but I am not really sure when. I guess it’s going to depend on my mood; I have a rather extensive watch list on most of my apps as it is, and find myself scrolling past some of these great films I’ve never seen because they simply don’t strike my fancy. Although it definitely belongs to the 1970’s with its focus on disaffected characters feeling trapped by life and circumstances.

And on that note, tis into the data entry spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will see you tomorrow.