Green Green Grass of Home

Monday morning, and the  warm-up weekend for Carnival is over. King Arthur/Merlin was a blast yesterday, as always–check out my Facebook page for the ridiculous amounts of beads we caught–and we also got two grails; mine is BURREES NUMBER 9, a combination Saints/LSU grail tribute to Drew Brees and Joe Burreaux! Easily the coolest thing I caught this first weekend.

And now for this week, which is utter and complete madness. I have to get up ridiculously early every day this week so I can get enough hours in to make a forty hour week and get off work early enough to get home to find a place to park before they close the streets. I suspect both Wednesday and Thursday aren’t going to be the easiest days to find parking–Wednesday night is Nyx; Thursday is Muses–and so I am resigned to not only having to walk a few blocks to get home from the car but having to trudge back to wherever I was able to leave it the next morning. Friday I have condom duty all night in the Quarter, and then I don’t have to go back into the office again until Ash Wednesday–but Fat Tuesday is, of course, a complete loss; trapped inside the parade route and nothing is really open anywhere, anyway.

I did manage to get some things done over the course of the weekend–I came up with a few more short story ideas because of course, exactly what I needed is more short story ideas–and actually worked on the Secret Project for a little while. I also spent some time reading Ali Brandon’s marvelous Double Booked for Death (I got the title wrong the other day), and also started working on my entry about Mary Higgins Clark’s Where Are The Children? I collapsed, exhausted and completely drained, into my easy chair last night and watched three more episodes of Rise of Empires: Ottoman. The siege and eventual fall of Constantinople is one of those dramatic events that changed the course of history, and forever altered the face of Europe and the Mediterranean Sea, also giving rise to centuries of Russian interest in the Black Sea and the Dardanelles, and desire for Constantinople and return it to the Orthodox Church. (The show is also giving me a final, deeper and better understanding of the geography of the city, which I’ve never been able to truly grasp before; I never really grasped where the Golden Horn was in relation to the city, nor that it was pretty much surrounded by water on a peninsula.) It’s very entertaining, and quite educational.

Whether I get anything done this week remains to be seen; I am still trying to figure out how and when to go to the gym on Wednesday, or how I am going to get the mail or make groceries, and when as well. #madness.

I also need to make a to-do list, but I think I’ll wait to do that for when I get to the office–I need to reschedule a doctor’s appointment, for one thing, and I also need to try to schedule Entergy to come replace our meter; I am going to try for Lundi Gras, which of course is ridiculous, but worth a try–I am going to have to spend that day getting the mail and making groceries, for one thing, and I making it to the gym because it’s closed on Samdi Gras (I just made that up; Fat Sunday) because there are parades literally all fucking day that day.

And on that note, I have to get ready to head into the spice mines. I slept deeply and well yesterday–combo of the gym and parades–and actually woke up on my own around four this morning, but naturally, went back to sleep for another two. One thing I’ve definitely noticed is an improvement in my sleep since I started back at the gym; and I need to keep going, if for no other reason than the improved sleep, you know? But I seem to be into it now, and I think I am going to be able to keep this momentum going.

One can hope, at any rate.

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I Believe in You

GEAUX TIGERS!

I love my LSU Tigers.

Someone asked me the other day if I had gone to LSU, and I had to admit that I hadn’t. I am not an alumnus of my favorite university. I do not have memories of college days walking to class in the shade of  the magnolias and live oaks, of going to Tiger Stadium and sitting in the student section and going crazy on Saturday nights.

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I didn’t go to an SEC college; and if I had, my parents would have most likely sent me to Auburn–and given how regularly LSU beats Auburn, that certainly would have made living here problematic! I grew up rooting for Auburn first and then Alabama–but I always liked LSU. I liked their colors, I liked that they had a live tiger, and I loved that their stadium was so insanely loud. I started paying more attention to LSU when we moved here, obviously–and Paul also started rooting for LSU. The year of Katrina I pushed Auburn aside once and for all for LSU, and I’ve never looked back.

And of course I should be an LSU fan, even though I didn’t go to school there. I live in Louisiana, and my tax dollars support LSU, so I have some ownership there.

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And have I come to love the Tigers over the years. I vividly remember, for example, the 1997 upset of Florida, ranked number one and riding an incredibly long–23 or so games–winning streak in the SEC. I remember the upset of Tennessee in 2000, and the shocking upset of Tennessee to win LSU its first SEC title in over ten years in 2001. The national championship years of 2003 and 2007. The upset of Georgia in 2003 that told the country LSU had arrived. The “and Flynn is back to throw…to the end zone and it’s CAUGHT! Are you kidding me?” last second win over Auburn in 2007, the nine minute drive to beat Florida that same year, the trouncing of Ohio State in New Orleans for the national title.

We went to our first game in Tiger Stadium in 2010, the Mississippi game–and after being there once, there was never any chance of looking back or rooting for anyone else. We became ride or die LSU fans that night–and have gone to at least one game every season ever since. And it’s not been easy–there have been some highs, there have been some terrible lows, inexplicable losses and the firing of Coach Miles, the questions about Coach O when he was hired, that loss to Troy…but the loss to Troy was a turning point for the Tigers. Just as in 2000 under Coach Saban LSU lost to Louisiana-Monroe, only to turn everything around and win a national title three years later…here we are two years after the Troy loss, with probably one of the biggest turn arounds in college football history.

The coach no one wanted. The quarterback who didn’t play for three years at Ohio State. The two star receiver no one wanted. The running back who was told he was too small to play major college football.

A season that almost seemed like the plot of a movie, one of the greatest stories in the history of college football.

And tonight is the night; the official end of the college football season with LSU playing for the national championship in New Orleans, in the Superdome, against the defending national champion Clemson Tigers. Tigers v. Tigers.

If someone had told me at the beginning of the season, way back in late August, that LSU would be playing for the national championship at the end of the season, I would have thought well, one can always dream, of course.

And yet, here we are, exactly where Joe Burrow said we would be at SEC Media Days, when he also said LSU would be scoring 40, 50 , 60 points per game.

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And with only a couple of exceptions, he was right. Only Auburn held LSU to less than thirty points; but the final score of that game (23-20) doesn’t really give an accurate indication of what the game was like; LSU trailed 3-0 early but never trailed again, and Auburn scored in the closing seconds of the game to pull that close. LSU never trailed anyone for very long this season; they trailed Florida 28-21 for a long period in the third quarter before tying it up and then scoring twice more to finish them off. Texas led 7-3 before LSU went on a tear and was up 20-7 at the half, and never looked back.. Alabama (ALABAMA, yes, THAT Alabama, who’d beaten LSU eight straight times while establishing itself as THE marquee program) never led, and never got closer than within three after LSU’s first touchdown. We were ahead of Alabama 33-13 at half-time.

I still can’t get over that.

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This season has been a magic carpet ride for LSU fans, it really has. The entire state has fallen in love with Joe Burrow–he’s as exalted almost as much as Drew Brees, and when you consider the fact that Brees is practically King of Louisiana, you can perhaps get an idea of how much the state loves our Ohio transplant. (Interesting that the two quarterback gods of Louisiana got there start in the Midwest playing for Big Ten teams, isn’t it? And they both wear Number 9….)

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And he won the goddamned Heisman Trophy. Only the second in LSU history–which puts him up there in the same category as legendary Billy Cannon. His number will be retired someday, and his name will be permanently mounted on the stadium with the other greats. His statue will be in front of the stadium next to Billy Cannon’s.

I only hope that the statue will be of him in what I’ve come to think of as his trademark pose–standing with a slight smile on his face, both hands grasping the neckline of his jersey in the front, pulling down on his shoulder pads.

And while I obviously want LSU to win, there’s also a part of me that thinks the national championship is just gravy on top of a magic season that will live forever in the hearts and minds of the LSU faithful. There were so many amazing moments in this season–the 3rd and 17 pass that went for the clinching touchdown against Texas; the interception against Alabama so LSU wound up scoring two touchdowns in the closing minute of the first half; the 49 points in the first half against Oklahoma–and remember, LSU was up 35-14 with four minutes left in the first half and scored twice more; that insane escape from being sacked that turned into a forty yard pass completion against Georgia; the trouncing of Texas A&M; highlight after highlight after highlight.

Usually, in past seasons, there was maybe one game, possibly two, that was legendary; this entire season has been.

And of course, this magic moment, on Senior Night, when he won the hearts of everyone in Louisiana forever:

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Legend.

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And if there’s any doubt left about how LSU fans feel about our Jeaux, check out this video, in which the Tiger Stadium staple, “Callin’ Baton Rouge,” plays over highlights from this amazing player:

So, GEAUX TIGERS. And win or lose, thank you for this season. It’s meant a lot to all of us.

Don’t Break the Heart that Loves You

Monday morning, and New Year’s Eve Eve. One last hurrah for 2019, as it were, as the year’s expiration date rapidly approaches.

Yesterday the Saints won, which was lovely, and then we finished watching Dublin Murders, which didn’t quite turn out the way I thought it might; although I am curious to see how the books go–as I mentioned, I did get a copy of In the Woods to start reading Tana French at long last. I also forgot that my first reread is actually The Talented Mr. Ripley, which I am currently in the midst of; Tom is now sailing for Europe in a first class cabin and enjoying himself tremendously. As I mentioned previously, the movie kind of glosses over his desire to get out of New York before he gets caught for mail fraud or any number of other little scams he has going, and this new opportunity with the wealthy Greenleafs–he’s going to play it as it lies and see where it goes and at least it’s a free trip to Europe.

How wonderful it must have been to be an expatriot in Europe in the 1950’s–then again, there was the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc just sitting there, too. There really never has been a period of time in the world where everything was truly wonderful.

And what a year this has been. I am still in a state of disbelief over the magic season LSU has had, and I still can’t completely wrap my mind around the trouncing of Oklahoma on Saturday afternoon. 63-28 is just insane–and chilling to hear Joe Burrow talk about it being “an off game where he didn’t play well.” Yeah, eight touchdowns, seven of them from passes in the first half alone. Definitely an off game…

Tomorrow we are lunching with Jean and Gillian at Commander’s Palace, as we do every New Year’s Eve, and this year the amazing Susan Larson will be joining us. How fun is THAT going to be? I’m already drooling over my Bloody Mary–I’ve really been wanting one lately for some reason–and next Monday is Twelfth Night already; yup, it’s Carnival season already. Imagine how insane Carnival will be if LSU wins the national championship in New Orleans, and the Saints make it deep into the play-offs; how crazy will Carnival be in that situation? I do hope the major krewes are working with LSU to get Coach O and Joe Burrow and the team to ride in some of the bigger parades; even if they don’t win the national championship (God forbid) they’ve already given us a legendary season, as have the Saints.

2019 was a very good year for Louisiana football fans.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. I decided to go in an hour later this morning than I usually do, so I could sleep a bit longer this morning. And I do feel remarkably rested this morning….and I do have the next two days off, which is even more lovely.

Later, Constant Reader!

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Louisiana Saturday Night

Last night, Joe Burrow won the Heisman Trophy; the first time since Billy Cannon in 1959 that an LSU player has–and it was just one more peak in what has been one of the most thrilling LSU seasons I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness.

It really has been something for LSU fans.

I started writing this entry the morning after LSU beat Alabama for the first time since 2011, and yet…I resisted posting it at the time. I try not to be superstitious, and succeed for the most part, but when it comes to college football (or the Saints), I give in to superstition all the fucking time, even though I know it’s absurd. For example, every season I pick out two images–one for my Facebook profile picture, the other for my Facebook cover picture. I do not change those images all season unless LSU loses; after a loss I choose two different ones because those two images have clearly run out of luck. Same with what I wear on game days. I always wear LSU sweats when I am at home; I’ve worn my yellow sweatshirt for every game I’ve watched at home this season, and will continue wearing it for the play-offs.

Every bit of juju, you know?

And watching the growing love affair between the people of Louisiana and Joe Burrow has been an absolute joy to watch. Being a football fan in Louisiana is somehow different than it is anywhere else–I don’t really know how to describe it. We cheer the wins and mourn the losses, but we never ever seem to take the losses out on the team. The losses are disappointing yes, but there’s always this sense that the fans and the team are in it together, more so than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. Drew Brees is a god in Louisiana and in New Orleans; now, Joe Burrow is one as well.

Paul said to me recently, “I never really think about you being Southern other than during football season.”

And he’s right–it’s true. One of the few remnants of my childhood upbringing is my deep and abiding love and enjoyment of college football. I’ve managed to shed most of my raising; values I was instilled with as a child that as an adult I’ve come to understand are neither right for me as a person or as a citizen to hold. It’s a struggle I continue to have even now; at least once a day my first thought in response to some situation or something someone says or something I see on-line is reprehensible, undesirable, and horrifying; shaking me to the very core of who I am as a person.

I suppose one can never completely be free of a Southern evangelical childhood. (Which reminds me of my essay “Recovering Christian”–which I really should finish writing.)

But one of the things I still hold onto is my love and enjoyment of college football. I grew up watching the games on ABC every Saturday; rooting for Auburn first and Alabama second. I always liked LSU–purple and gold has always been one of my favorite team color combinations, plus they had a real live tiger mascot–but they were a secondary team for me. I always liked their traditions and their stadium and all of that, but as I said, Auburn and Alabama came first. After I moved to Louisiana I began following LSU more–obviously, it’s much easier to follow the Tigers in Louisiana than anywhere else in the country–and of course, in the wake of Katrina turned my full fan capabilities to LSU, and have never looked back (I still root for Auburn and Alabama, in that order; I root for them except for when they play LSU and when they play each other).

This season has surpassed my wildest dreams for LSU.

I would have never predicted that the state of Louisiana would be having a football-season long (and probably much, much longer) love affair with a kid from Ohio.

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I mean, seriously. I was cautiously optimistic about the season before it began.

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But in all the fantasy narratives of an LSU football season I’ve daydreamed quite happily about, what this 2019 season has become was one that never entered my mind. Not even with my incredibly all-over-the-map creative imagination, would I have dared to dream what this season became.

Legendary.

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LSU 55, Georgia Southern 3

LSU 45, Texas 38

LSU 65, Northwestern State 14

LSU 66, Vanderbilt 38

LSU 42, Utah State 6

LSU 42, Florida 28

LSU 36, Mississippi State 13

LSU 23, Auburn 20

LSU 46, Alabama 41

LSU 58, Mississippi 37

LSU 56, Arkansas 20

LSU 50, Texas A&M 7

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP:

LSU 37, Georgia 10

I also realized over the course of this season why it’s so difficult for me to care about the NFL (other than the Saints): because there are too many LSU players in the NFL playing for non-Saints teams, and I just can’t root against LSU players. Ever. It came to me when I watched the Texas A&M, when they finally took Joe Burrow out of the game to thunderous applause, a standing ovation and the crowd chanting his name, with–I am not ashamed to say it–tears in my eyes: I can never root against Joe Burrow, so whoever he plays for in the NFL I am going to have to pull for–and what happens when he plays against the Saints?

Therein lies the rub with being a football fan.

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This season has been amazing, absolutely amazing, and ever so much fun to watch. If someone had told me last season that LSU would be leading Alabama 33-13 at half-time in Tuscaloosa, or that they would hang fifty on A&M, or about those big final touchdowns against Texas, Florida and Alabama, I would have thought they were dreaming. Sure, I go into every season hoping LSU will play well and have a big year–I always hope for the best–but this season? Never would have dared hope that it would turn out like this. I was excited for Joe Burrow last year when he transferred in, but there was also that element of well, he couldn’t get the starting job at Ohio State–and much as I enjoyed watching him play, Danny Etling was also a transfer quarterback and while he did win some big games (who can ever forget that insane upset of Auburn in Tiger Stadium, coming after the embarrassing loss to Troy, when everyone wrote off not only LSU but predicted Coach O would be fired at the end of the season? I will always have a soft spot in my heart for Danny Etling), it wasn’t like he lit up the record books…and he couldn’t beat Alabama.

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And after last year’s Alabama game, I certainly never dared to hope LSU would beat them this year. But they did, and it was a thriller of a game, an absolute classic. (I may have told Paul to replay the game when I am on my deathbed, so I can die happy.)

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And yes, I am aware that I might take LSU football a little too seriously.

But what a season. I was checking some notes yesterday, and came up with these incredible moments:

*LSU has actually only trailed four opponents during the course of this season: they trailed against Florida 28-21 in the third quarter, only to win 42-28, including a goal line stand at the end of the game when it really didn’t matter if the Gators scored;

*LSU trailed Texas 7-3 in the first quarter, but took the lead back at 10-7; in fact, with 1:30 left in the first half LSU kicked a field goal to go up 13-7…but the halftime score was LSU 20, Texas 7. Texas would close the gap to two points twice in the second half, but the famous 3rd-and-17 touchdown pass slammed the door shut once and for all on the Longhorns;

*Vanderbilt scored first, but by the end of the first quarter LSU was up 28-7.

*LSU trailed Auburn 3-0 early before going up 7-3 and later, 10-3. Auburn scored to tie it at 10-10, but LSU never trailed again;

*With five minutes left in the first half the Tigers kicked a field goal to go up 19-13 on Alabama; the half time score was 33-13. Alabama never lead, the score was never tied, and Alabama was never able to pull close than five points the rest of the game. The third quarter was all Alabama, and they made the score 33-27 with fourteen minutes left in the game–the set-up for another one of Alabama’s come-from-behind wins. Joe then took the Tigers 75 yards, making at least three conversions on third downs to go up 39-27–and when the Tide scored again, Joe took them another 75 yards to put the final nail in the coffin with less than two minutes left in the game;

*Vanderbilt scored first, but by the end of the first quarter LSU was up 28-7.

*Also worthy of mention in the Texas game: Texas had 1st and goal and was stopped four straight times. LSU took over on downs. On the first play Joe threw one of his few interceptions; Texas had first and goal inside the five. LSU’s defense again stopped them four times–so that was eight consecutive stops inside the ten. Amazing.

*In the SEC title game, the score at half-time was 17-3. In a three minute flurry in the second half, LSU went ahead 34-3 before Georgia scored again.Screen Shot 2019-12-15 at 8.26.42 AM

It’s really been a magical, wondrous season to watch and enjoy; there have been so many times where all I’ve been able to say it “OH MY GOD” as I watched–the most recent, of course, that insane play where Joe avoided three tacklers and launched a pass that went for 71 yards….while running to the sideline.

There have been so many great moments this season.

And I haven’t even talked about the great story behind this season either: the coach no one wanted; the third string quarterback who left his original school so he could get a chance to play; the running back everyone thought was too short to play college ball; the linemen no one wanted; the receiver who was too skinny–they all came together in Tiger Stadium to create one of the greatest teams in the already storied history of LSU football.

I am so thrilled I got to see them play in person twice–the Georgia Southern game, and one of the greatest experiences of my life–the Florida game.

Thank you, Joe, Coach O, and everyone else on the team from the bottom of my heart.

GEAUX TIGERS!

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And now it’s Sunday. Just like that!

And LSU are the SEC champions in football, for the first time since 2011, and just like in 2011, the game was against Georgia. Also like in 2011, the game wasn’t even close. LSU won the title decisively, defeating the 4th team in the country (and 2nd in defense nationally) 37-10. No one had scored more than 20 points on Georgia all season; LSU had 17 by half-time. Joe Burrow played like an experienced NFL quarterback in the play-offs. Derek Stingley Jr. made two phenomenal interceptions–Georgia had only been intercepted three times all season; make that five now.

This entire season has been a dream, you know? In 2003, LSU was expected to be good–but not national champion good; and they had to fight their way into the national championship game (including a blowout of Georgia in the SEC title game) before beating Number One ranked Oklahoma in the title game. In 2007, they started the season ranked second and expected to be national champions; despite two losses, somehow they fought their way back into the national title game and blew out Ohio State. In 2011, they were supposed to be good and were–going 12-0, winning the SEC title game with a blowout of Georgia, before losing in the title game to Alabama. This year, we expected the Tigers to be good…but I don’t think I ever dreamed they would be this good. I hoped, of course, but…wow. Just wow.

There was much joy in Louisiana last night–and there was SO MUCH JOY in the Lost Apartment, I can’t even begin to tell you. In fact, I’m still floating on cloud nine this morning as I type this. GEAUX TIGERS!

And if the Saints beat the 49ers today in the Superdome…madness.

As I have said before, I’ve been writing an appreciation post of the LSU season since the Alabama game, and maybe at some point (today? this week? Who knows?) I’ll put the finishing touches on it and share it. I wanted to post it originally after the Alabama game, but then thought, but what if they don’t win out? And so I decided to wait until after the regular season ended–but after the A&M win last Sunday, as I added more to the post, I thought, what if they win the SEC title next week? And so I waited again; and even now, I’m not sure if I should go ahead and finish it; the season isn’t over yet, after all, and LSU is going to the national play-offs for the first time ever.

I did get some things done yesterday–I made groceries, and we had our last “tailgate”–but I turned on the television to the Oklahoma-Baylor Big 12 title game and got sucked in almost immediately–and then the rest of the day was pretty much a loss. This morning, I need to get the kitchen cleaned–the Saints make me so tense I usually clean during their games–because sitting still makes me too tense–and I did manage to print out a story I need to edit yesterday, so there’s that. I’m also going to try to find some time to spend with Laura Benedict’s The Stranger Inside, which opens fantastically and I’ve yet to have the time to spend on it that I would like. I also need to get back to work on the book–the work I did last week felt amazing, and I should ride that momentum as long as I can–and there’s a lot of mess and filing and sorting to be done in my office area here in the kitchen.

But I can’t help but bask in the glow of LSU being SEC champions yet again. GEAUX TIGERS!

I’m still also reading Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, which is absolutely fascinating. I have to write a Sherlock Holmes story set in New Orleans, if you will recall, and reading all this French Quarter/New Orleans history is proving to be enormously helpful, quite frankly. I’m only disappointed in myself for taking so long to get around to start studying the endlessly fascinating history of this city I love so much.

I really need to make a to-do list.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me.

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Hello

Sunday morning, and despite all the things I have to do today–there’s no Saints game, and all the things I’ve been brushing off all week have to be done today–I am still aglow from an insane day of college football yesterday.

First off, how insane was the Iron Bowl? The Auburn-Alabama game is always special (except for those years when Auburn is terrible and they get blown out) but yesterday’s was one for the ages. Strange things often happen in the Iron Bowl (“Punt Bama Punt” for one, the “Kick Six” for another) but I couldn’t believe the insanity of what I was watching yesterday. A kick-off return for a touchdown? Two pick sixes? A game-saving field goal that bounces off the upright and is no-good? A too many men on the field penalty that gives Auburn a first down and wins the game for them? Fucking insanity. And now Alabama is 10-2–their worst regular season since 2010. And the two games they lost were by a combined total of eight points. Interesting that with two losses–one to LSU, ranked first or second, depending on where you look for the rankings; the other to a Top 15 Auburn–whose only losses were to LSU, #4 Georgia, and top 15 Florida–people are already wondering if the Alabama dynasty is over.

If you’re thinking that, you don’t know Nick Saban, and you really haven’t been paying attention.

But LSU. Wow, LSU. What a dream ride of a season this has been; trouncing Texas A&M 50-7 and basically making them look like a lower division team on a Saturday night in Death Valley. 12-0, an undefeated regular season for the first time since 2011, and a thrilling season with incredibly exciting wins over Florida (still can’t believe I was at that game!), Auburn, Texas, Alabama, and now A&M. Watching this team play has been a pleasure and a joy all season. I’ve been writing an entry about this season since the Alabama game, detailing the growing love affair between the state of Louisiana and quarterback Joe Burrow; I didn’t post it that Sunday morning and have been adding to it ever since, thinking, Oh, I’ll post this if we go undefeated and then last night, well, maybe I should wait until after the SEC title game. Who knows when or if I’ll ever post it; but I do appreciate Joe Burrow so much that I definitely want to document this insanely fun season here. The story of this season’s LSU football team has been a great one; the transfer quarterback, the coach no one wanted, the running back who was too short, the receiver who was too skinny and only a two-star recruit.  As time ran out last night, I couldn’t help but think, next year Joe’s name and number is going to be mounted on the stadium with Tommy Casanova’s and Billy Cannon’s.

So. Much. Fun.

I still can’t completely wrap my mind around it.

But I have to shake off this oh my god LSU is undefeated afterglow and get my head back into the game. It’s back to the office with me tomorrow, and back to work. This vacation has been enormously pleasurable, I feel completely rested and relaxed, my mind unwound and in a good place; now I need to get moving on everything and stay focused. I still have some things I need to figure out, and I need to stay motivated. This vacation seemed to work better than the last–the last I was ill and trying to recover from being ill; so it wasn’t quite the same rest-and-recovery thing; but if I hadn’t been ill I would have gone to Bouchercon and that wouldn’t have been restful either; fun, but not relaxing. I am in a good place after this week off, mentally and emotionally, and so I think that this December (I can’t believe it’s already December, for fuck’s sake) will be highly productive and fun. The Christmas and New Year’s holidays are falling in the middle of the week this year, so that will create both peculiar and unsettling work weeks around them, and then suddenly it’s 12th Night and Carnival, with Mardi Gras just around the corner. Yikes, indeed!

I’d much rather lay around all day, frankly, and do nothing one last time, but I don’t think that would be a particularly wise move, honestly.

All right, enough of this and back to the spice mines. Happy December 1st, everyone!

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To Be a Lover

LSU beat Alabama yesterday, 46-41.

I still can’t completely wrap my mind around it, but it was a great game–I was never relaxed, from the opening kick-off until I realized LSU could simply run out the clock and that the game was actually, in fact,  already over, if not officially–and both teams acquitted themselves well. LSU played exceptionally well; at half-time I said out loud in disbelief, “we’re ahead of Alabama 33-13 at half-time?”

In my wildest dreams of LSU beating Alabama again, I never dreamed it would go down the way it did yesterday afternoon. Like I said, I can’t wrap my mind around it.  But, as I say, to be the best you have to beat the best, and Alabama is the gold standard of college football, and has been since 2008. You just don’t get better than the Alabama program–historically or recently. Their recent dynasty has pulled them ahead of other gold standard programs–USC, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas, Michigan, Notre Dame–because you simply cannot argue with the success they’ve had. Every national champion since 2008 has had to beat Alabama to get there–or it was Alabama. Every national champion from the SEC since 2009 has been from the western division–and if you go back another two years, LSU won it in 2007 (Florida won in 2006 and 2008).

And it looks like, at long last, we might have another shot at it again this year.

GEAUX TIGERS!

Needless to say, I literally got nothing done after the game was over. I didn’t read anything, didn’t write anything, didn’t clean anything. I just kind of stayed in my easy chair, scrolling through social media while the Tennessee-Kentucky game played in the background, to see the reactions to the game and the videos of the team plane landing in Baton Rouge to an enormous crowd–which even lined the road cheering as the team busses took them back to campus from the airport. We all are, of course, huge fans of the underdog, and what is this year’s LSU team is not a team of underdogs? No one wanted running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire; too small to play in the SEC, they said. He was phenomenal last night–that final first down that iced the game once and for all was an incredible display of running as he dragged almost the entire Alabama defense the entire ten yards to put the game away once and for all. The transfer quarterback who didn’t get the starting job at Ohio State; now almost has a lock on the Heisman Trophy and has already broken most, if not all, of the quarterback records at LSU.

And of course, Coach O–the interim coach who finally got the job after two bigger names turned it down; the coach LSU “settled” for, who went on to lose to Troy in his first full season as head coach. Remember that? It was just two years ago, and everyone wrote Coach O for dead that season. Even this year, Coach O was “on the hot seat”, according to every sports journalistic out there–the Cajun home-state coach with the gravelly voice; who wages a battle at every press conference with the closed-captioning. And yet, here LSU sits, 9-0, ranked Number One, having just gotten the Alabama monkey off its back for the first time since the 2011 season and suddenly is everyone’s favorite for the college football play-offs.

After the Texas game, when LSU won in Austin, I said to Paul, “how cool would it be for LSU and Ohio State–Joe’s two teams–to meet for the national championship, and how fitting would it be to write, as Joe’s final act as a college football player, to beat the team that wouldn’t start him to win the national title?”

It seemed far-fetched at the time, but now? It’s definitely possible.

LSU has to keep its head in the game though–there are three games left in the conference (Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M), and then the conference title game–most likely against Georgia; even if Georgia loses to Auburn they’ll win the East–and should Georgia win out, and LSU win that game…it will be the fifth time they’ve beaten a Top Ten ranked team this season.

Sorry if you’re not a football fan, but I am aglow still this morning, and that glow will probably last for me a little while…but the Saints are playing the hated Falcons today at noon, so I’ve got to get ready for that game, too.

GEAUX TIGERS!

If you could have turned the joy in Louisiana last night into pure energy, we could have powered the entire country last night.

Thank you, and bless you, boys.

JEAUX BURREAUX FOR THE HEISMAN!!!!!!

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Hip to Be Square

GEAUX TIGERS!

Yes, today is the LSU-Auburn game, in Tiger Stadium, with implications for the division, conference, and national title picture for both teams. Auburn already has one loss–to Florida–and LSU is currently undefeated and getting a lot of press and attention for how well they’re playing, in addition to Heisman talk for our quarterback, Joe Burrow.

They call the rivalry the Tiger Bowl, because both teams are the Tigers (but Auburn doesn’t have a real tiger, like LSU does–their live mascot is an eagle, which is also kind of cool; I love when it soars around the stadium before landing on its trainer’s arm down on the field. SEC football rules.), and it’s become kind of a rivalry game…although it seems almost every game in the SEC West is turning into a rivalry game. There have also been some great, classic games in the series–with tight, last minute wins for both sides, and the occasional blowout. These games have a tendency to become named: the Earthquake Game (last minute pass to beat Auburn 7-6; the crowd reaction registered on the seismograph across campus and the game has become a part of SEC lore); the Night the Barn Burned (one year the old athletic center next to the Auburn stadium burned to the ground during the game, which was televised); the Interception Game; and so on. My favorites were the last second, insane touchdown pass that beat Auburn 30-24 in 2007, the comeback in Tiger Stadium in 2017 27-23 (the 20-0 lead Auburn enjoyed was the biggest lead they’ve ever had in a game they wound up losing), and of course, last season’s Cole Tracy field goal as time expired to win 22-21. Both of those last two were huge upsets and turnarounds for LSU’s season. Paul and I were also at the insane game in Tiger Stadium in 2015 that LSU eventually won 45-21, when it was so insanely hot in Tiger Stadium that they cut the cost of water to a dollar at first and by the third quarter were giving it away–I don’t think I’ve ever been so hot in my entire life.

It was fun, tho. And that season, like this one, started out 7-0. Today’s game will go a long way to determining the rest of the season for both teams…I’m nervous as always before a big game. GEAUX TIGERS!

Olga rolled through last night–I woke up to torrential downpours and extreme winds several times during the night–but while it’s gray out there this morning it seems pretty calm. There’s debris all over the walk outside, indicative of the wind and the rain, but the sun is trying to come out from behind some clouds. Apparently there are fifty thousand homes without power this morning in the metro area. At least it’s not hot…

Yesterday I didn’t get much writing done. Mostly I spent the day trying to get the Lost Apartment back in order; you know, cleaning–the thing I always do to try to avoid writing as much as I can. This morning I need to finish the floors and maybe do some more book organizing, and then I can sit down and comfortably work on something…although I should probably work on something first and then do the cleaning–or do the cleaning after the LSU game–it starts at two thirty.

Or…I could just take the day off to relax and think and read…see how easy it is to talk yourself out of doing any work?

Well, I’m not getting anything done just sitting here, so I think I’ll finish this off and head back into the spice mines for the rest of the morning. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader!

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Calling Baton Rouge

There is absolutely nothing like Saturday night in Death Valley. Nothing.

I’ve often talked about how much I loathe the drive to and from Baton Rouge; it’s tedious, and once you get past the second swamp bridge there really isn’t anything to see. Sure, the countryside of Louisiana is beautiful–as is the countryside of every Southern state, to be sure–but after awhile it become rather humdrum, and when you’ve made the drive as often as we have, yeah…it gets boring. It’s about eighty miles total, give or take, from the Lost Apartment to Tiger Stadium, and it really seems to take forever.

The only thing worse is the drive home after dark.

As I said the other day, being an LSU fan is a lot of fun–if sometimes not necessarily good for your blood pressure or your heart. The Tigers have almost always been a strong defensive team with an okay offense–conservative and methodical, rarely passing, always trying to grind out yards in the run game. The dull offense has resulted in LSU’s inability to recruit outstanding quarterbacks–if you’re never going to get to pass much, pretty much anyone can take a snap and give the ball off to a running back. LSU occasionally has had outstanding quarterbacks–JaMarcus Russell and Zack Mettenberger come to mind–but the offense never really changed very much; they might have gotten to pass more regularly than the usual stand-in quarterback, but not enough to have made a difference. LSU has always had an elite level defense that kept us in games and made up competitive…and then Joe Burrow transferred in from Ohio State last year. Joe’s arm and competitive spirit raised what many experts thought would be an average LSU team to a higher level; losing only three games (two of which were close and could have, should have, gone out way; only Alabama really put a beating on the Tigers–and frankly, losing to Alabama might be frustrating, but they are the program of the decade and the standard to which all other SEC teams must be held) and giving us some hopes for this season.

No matter what we might have been hoping for, this team and the new offense was something we never could have expected, nor dreamed.

Tiger Stadium was rocking last night, and I can honestly say once the game started I maybe sat down no more than two or three minutes of the game. It was so loud my ears were ringing and I couldn’t hear myself think most of the time. This morning, I have no voice and every muscle and joint in my body is aching, as is my lower back. (I’d hoped to get things done today, but I suspect I’m going to by lying in my easy chair most of the day recovering) What a game.

What a game.

LSU and Florida has turned into a major rivalry. Back in the aughts, LSU and Florida were consistently the two best teams in the conference (until the resurgence of Alabama in the latter part of the decade); the winner of the LSU-Florida game won the national championship three years in a row (2006-2008).  This year, both teams were again undefeated and ranked in the Top Ten: LSU at number five, Florida at number seven. A night game in Tiger Stadium. LSU took the opening kick-off and marched down the field until the drive stalled, and a field goal attempt was wide right. The defense forced a three-and-out, and on the very next drive LSU took a 7-0 lead. The rest of the first half was a seesaw, with LSU going ahead and Florida coming back. At half-time the score was 21-21; Florida got the second half kick-off and had what looked like an easy drive to take their first (and as it turned out, only) lead of the game 28-21. They also made it look so damned easy…the stadium quieted and I thought to myself, oh no. But the Tigers counterpunched and tied the score 28-28…and that was it. The defense bent but never broke again–including an amazing interception in the end zone, and a goal line stand in the closing minutes of the game in which Florida failed to score despite running eight plays, starting at the LSU nine yard line (a bogus pass interference call in the end zone on fourth down–the officiating was a disgrace and an embarrassment to the SEC and the NCAA–gave Florida first-and-goal from the four and they didn’t get it) and the stadium was rocking the entire time.

When Derek Stingly made that interception in the end zone I jumped up into the air screaming–and when I came back down, I swear I could feel the stadium shaking under my feet as everyone just was going absolutely nuts.

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God, how I love Saturday nights in Tiger Stadium.

Afterward, as we drove home in the pitch black of a Louisiana country night, exhausted and happy and drained of energy, I remarked to Paul, “And our unbeaten streak continues.” LSU has never lost a game when we are in the stadium; we often joke we should get complimentary season tickets just for that reason alone.

And again, there is absolutely no reason why our final record for the season shouldn’t be, at worst, 10-1.

GEAUX TIGERS!

Livin’ on a Prayer

Good morning, and a happy Sunday to you all.

LSU pummeled Northwestern State 65-14 last night; they were sluggish in the first half on both offense and defense, allowing the score to be 24-14 at halftime and me wondering if this was some kind of terrible, awful, no-good let down after last weekend’s big game. Never fear–Joe Burrow came out on fire in the second half. LSU scored on it’s four possessions of the third quarter to go up 44-14, adding three more scores in the final period with back-up quarterback Myles Brennan (who also looked fantastic, which is good news for the next two years of LSU football as well), and had the game well in hand. Northwestern State maybe got three first downs total in the second half? But it was amazing to see LSU score 41 points in a half. I never thought I’d ever see the day when that happened, and yet…here we are.

I managed to get the Lost Apartment relatively cleaned up yesterday, and worked on some writing that’s due soon, but have a lot more writing to do today. I am having coffee with my friend Lisa this morning before she leaves town heading home for Atlanta, but after that I need to come home, strap my ass into my desk chair, and finish writing everything that needs to get done today. The essay is the most important thing for me to get done as it is due today; I struggled with it yesterday but I know what I want to say in it but have to figure out how to order the points I am trying to make with it. That is a lot harder than it sounds, and I really want this to be a good essay. I have remarkably little confidence in my ability to write anything, but the scars from college about essays run even deeper than the ones for short stories. But, as my friend Laura always reminds me, my blog is a short daily personal essay, and I have been writing these almost every day for the last fifteen years–which is a terrifying thought, really. I don’t write one of these every day–although I do try–but even if I only do 200 per year….that’s 3000 of these.

Three thousand.

So, yeah, I’m not precisely sure why I still get imposter syndrome about anything to do with writing, other than basic insecurity. The insecurity is something I am trying to work on; it’s an on-going process, obviously. I mean, if I still get imposter syndrome about writing fiction–after all the books and short stories and awards and nominations–obviously it runs very deep in me. I’m not sure why that is–most likely because of the never feeling like I fit in that developed as a gay child–but there you have it. It’s not comforting that other writers experience it as well, although it does help somewhat to know I’m not alone in this.

Okay, sorry to be so brief, but I’ve really got to get to work. Have a lovely Sunday, everyone.

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