Monday morning and all is quiet and dark in the Lost Apartment this morning. I slept well again last night–I’m getting rather spoiled by all this good sleep, really–and yet it’s weird to be up again when it’s so dark outside. Today is my first full week of work this entire year–not bad, really, since it’s the last week of the month–but it’s also going to be weird to be working every day. I have that event this Saturday at the Convention Center, but other than that my entire focus this entire week is going to be writing (just like always). Everything is going the way it’s supposed to –I’ve already started questioning my choices about the story, so we’re right on track–and I am not getting stressed about anything, so that’s also working for me this year. I’d love to have another day off, though.
And parade season is literally right around the corner.
I didn’t write as much this weekend as I would have liked to, unfortunately; that seems to be very much par for the course, sadly. I’ll have a lot to get done this weekend, of course–that’s how it always seems to work, doesn’t it? That last minute push–but it’s fine. I guess the Joey Burrow and the Bengals won again yesterday–I really only pay attention to the Bengals and the Saints; I pull for the Bengals because of Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, of course. I wish the Saints could have gotten him, seriously, but we had a really good run as Saints fans and so I am not going to complain about their return to mediocrity.
We watched two more episodes of Mayfair Witches and there are some substantial changes to the story from the book, but it’s enjoyable watching and there was one point last night where I kind of had to laugh; one of the most vivid and poignant things in the book is how they always parked drugged out of her mind Deirdre on the side porch every day for everyone and anyone walking past the house to see–it wasn’t until last night that it dawned on me how uniquely New Orleans and Southern Gothic that actually is; of course they put her out on the side porch on display for the entire world to see rather than keeping her hidden away inside the decaying mansion. I’m enjoying the show, much like how I enjoyed Interview with the Vampire. I am not one of those people who inevitably are disappointed with adaptations of novels I enjoyed; I long ago sensed that you can’t compare a television series or movie to a novel as they are completely different media and differences are inevitable–they should be viewed and valued for what they are rather than what they should have been. Changes have to be made–just like how the house they used for filming and converted to look like the house at First and Chestnut isn’t exactly the same; Deirdre’s porch wasn’t the main gallery of the house but a completely separate and different side porch, coming off the living room windows. But you have to adapt to what you are working with, and since they couldn’t use the actual house–obviously there would be differences.
I also have a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon on Wednesday, which means having to leave early that day (so I guess it’s not really a full week of work after all), so I can finally get my arm looked at and possibly start the process of getting hearing aids. Yay for health insurance! I am tired a bit this morning–more like still sleepy more than anything else, it’s funny how the meaning of tired has changed over the years–and could easily climb back into bed and sleep for another two hours or so. I like that I am getting good sleep so that I feel rested; weekend after next will be the weekend in Alabama which means I won’t be sleeping again relatively soon, sigh. (It’s getting to the point where I don’t even want to travel at all anymore because the lack of sleep becomes debilitating.) But I won’t be traveling again after that weekend until San Diego and Bouchercon in August/September, unless I have to go to Kentucky for something in the meantime, and I am really looking forward to the build up of accrued time off. I really do think I may just take a week off in May or June just to stay home and work on things around the house–which will inevitably lead to me being lazy and doing nothing for most of that time, which is not good. I am hoping that the arm check-up will go well and will eventually lead to me being cleared to return to the gym, but I also fear I am being overly optimistic. Visually the arms look vastly different from each other now, which really has me concerned about something like a torn muscle or something like that–but you’d think that would be more painful and wouldn’t have stopped hurting as quickly as this did? It’s always something. I guess I should check into the yoga schedule at the gym and see if there’s any classes that work with my schedule. Stretching, riding the bike, walking on the treadmill…these are all things that don’t require me to actually use my arms much, so….no excuses.
And on that note I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.
I have decided, at long last, to throw away my ratty old LSU sweatshirt.
This sweatshirt, for the record, predates Paul, that’s how old it is. It’s either thirty or twenty-nine; I cannot really remember one way or the other. It was, however, my very first LSU sweatshirt–the first of many–and I bought it at the bookstore on the LSU campus. I don’t remember which drive from Houston to Tampa it was when I stopped on campus and bought it–it was either a time when I was driving my new car from Houston back to Tampa, or when I was riding with a friend who was driving from Phoenix to Tampa–I flew into Houston, he met me at the airport and we drove on to Tampa from there, but for a very long time it was my only LSU sweatshirt, and I’ve always had a deep fondness for it. It’s been worn and washed so many times that it’s incredibly thin and threadbare; the neckline is fraying and so are the sleeves at the wrist. It’s stained and ratty and messy, so much so that I won’t even wear it to run errands. I only wear it around the house and usually only when all the other sweatshirts are dirty (I live in sweats when I am at home), and the other day as I was putting it on I realized not only how old it was but how bad of shape it was in. Why are you holding on to this sweatshirt? I asked myself, and then Saturday morning as I was folding it out of the dryer I thought throw it away, why are you keeping this? Sentiment? You pride yourself on your lack of that emotion, so I decided to take a photo of it, write a farewell blog entry to it, and put it in the trash–which I should have done years ago, really.
I don’t even remember why I decided to stop on campus and buy it, to be honest. I have no memory of that at all. Even now, when we are on campus for games and go by the store, it doesn’t look familiar at all from back then. Maybe they’ve built or redesigned the campus store, I don’t know; it’s certainly possible. But I don’t remember it being right by the stadium, either; it’s possible there are two stores on campus. I couldn’t say for sure.
Despite growing up as an Auburn and Alabama fan (in that order; the rule was you always rooted for Alabama unless they were playing Auburn), I’ve always kind of been partial to LSU, even though I had no connection to either the school or the state until much later in life. I’ve tried to remember why I always liked LSU, even as a kid–I think it was two things: purple has always been a favorite color of mine, especially when paired with gold, and the live tiger on campus (which I am now on the fence about–I see the arguments both for and against keeping a live tiger on campus as a mascot, but I love that tiger). My cousin actually was on the Auburn team that lost the Earthquake Game back in 1988–my family is still bitter about that 7-6 last minute loss–and when we moved to Louisiana, I got Paul into college football and he became an LSU fan because we lived here. I still rooted for Auburn and Alabama and LSU, in that order. I was still rooting for Auburn and Alabama when they played LSU, though; even in 2003 when LSU won its first national championship since 1958. It was 2005 when everything shifted for me on the college football landscape; that horrible 2005 season after Katrina, when LSU’s football team was about the only positive thing Louisiana had going for it that season, that was when I went full-on bleed purple-and-gold LSU fan, and have never looked back since. Paul of course had already gone full tilt LSU fan, and his enthusiasm was catching. I used to only care about college football; now I pay attention to almost every sport, from basketball to gymnastics to baseball to track so I can root for the Tigers.
Even before LSU moved to the front of the list, I was writing about LSU. Chanse played scholarship football for LSU, and would have possibly played pro had he not suffered a career-ending knee injury in the Sugar Bowl his last season of eligibility. Chanse was a tight end; and I had always intended for Chanse to go back to LSU and solve a murder on the campus, at his fraternity house. That story, “Once a Tiger,” is about four thousand words in; I’ve debated turning it into both a novel or a novella rather than a short story. Scotty is an LSU fan–I wrote about Mike the Tiger in Baton Rouge Bingo–and of course, in A Streetcar Named Murder Valerie’s twin sons are in their first semester up there.
Paul and I went to our first LSU game in Tiger Stadium in November of 2010. It was the Mississippi game, the Magnolia Bowl; there’s not much love lost between LSU and Mississippi–their fans still can’t get over Billy Cannon’s Run back in 1959. LSU has ruined many a season for the Rebels, and vice versa, but I do think they hate us more than we hate them. The game was amazing, and we had a great time. We went to several games in 2011, and it wasn’t until the COVID year of 2020 that we went the entire season without going to a game; the only game we went to in 2021 was the first time the Tigers ever lost when we were at the game (Auburn, ironically; it was also Auburn’s first win in Baton Rouge this century). We didn’t go to any games this year, either; not sure if we will be going to any more in the future, either; but one never knows, and I would like to go to at least one more Saturday night game in Death Valley. We’ve been to some great games over the years, and I am very happy to say that we got to see that great 2019 team play twice–and we were at the Florida game, which was amazing and exciting and I couldn’t talk for at least three days afterwards.
And of course, this season was all over the place, but the team did something never done before in LSU football history: won at both Florida and Auburn…so obviously, the team has never won in Gainesville and Auburn and beat Alabama in Baton Rouge. Not even Joe Burrow could do that; in his first year as a Tiger he was 1-2 in those three games. So, if nothing else, Jayden Daniels has won a place in LSU history for that, and Brian Kelly did something in his first year in Baton Rouge that no LSU coach had ever done before–including Nick Saban (even the year Saban led LSU to a national title, that team lost to Florida in Tiger Stadium).
And so it’s goodbye to my old sweatshirt at long last. I don’t know why I didn’t throw it away sooner–it’s been ratty and stained and threadbare for years–unless it was an unconscious kind of sentimentality. I haven’t preserved much of my pre-Paul life–I’ve always viewed those years as a prologue to the rest of my life–but this was one of the few things left from that time.
But its time has passed, so farewell to you, old LSU sweatshirt. You served me well…and now I get to buy a new one to replace it. YES!
And now it’s Christmas morning, with tidings of great joy and all that. It’s thirty-six degrees in New Orleans and our Hard Freeze Warning doesn’t let up until nine this morning, but it’s still not exactly going to be warm or anything. But that’s fine. I have lots to do today and I slept in again (it’s been marvelous, sleeping late this long weekend but it’s going to make getting up Tuesday morning in the cold difficult, I fear) and feel rested this morning. Which is a very good thing, don’t get me wrong on that. But when I finish this I need to clean up the dishes from yesterday before I dive back into my Donna Andrews Christmas read for a bit before I dive headfirst back into the book. I did get some writing done yesterday–didn’t make the quota, so will have to make up for that today as well as meet today’s–and I am enjoying Donna’s book tremendously. After Paul got home from his trainer, I gave up on reading and we settled in to watch some movies: See How They Run (great cast, clever concept, not completely executed properly); The Banshees of Inisherin (not seeing how that was nominated for comedy Golden Globes, unless it’s such dark humor that I completely missed it. There are some terrific performances in it, though); All Quiet on the Western Front (a remake of the Oscar winning classic; perhaps one of the grimmest and darkest looks at how miserable war really is and definitely an Oscar contender); and finally–well, I don’t remember the fourth film we watched last night before going to bed, which is probably not a good sign of either its memorability or my memory. Maybe it’ll come to me as I write this, who knows?
I made pulled turkey for Christmas Eve, with an eye to not having to cook anything today, and I bought too much. I usually get one of those small boneless turkey breasts from Butterball, but I couldn’t find one anywhere this week, but Friday they had turkey breasts at Rouse’s, so that’s what I got. It was twice the size of what I usually get–and we can never really finish eating–and it had bones. It barely fit into the crockpot but…it was delicious when it was finished, much better than those boneless ones, and I can’t help but wonder if the bones somehow make a difference? It was a time shredding the meat (since there were bones), and I made some Stove Top to go with it (I can make real cornbread dressing from scratch like my mom makes, but it’s a shit ton of work and it makes a shit ton of dressing, which we would never be able to completely eat). But today I shouldn’t have to cook anything, other than maybe a grilled cheese for lunch or something, and once I finish this I am going to clean the kitchen and read for a little while before getting cleaned up and diving back into the book.
It’s also a very short work week at the office, since tomorrow I have off as a holiday and so only have three days in the office this week preparatory to another three day weekend this coming weekend. There will be football games to watch over that weekend, which will make it much harder to get writing done, but the book must be turned in on January 1. I am trying not to feel guilty about not getting any more writing done yesterday and for leaving the apartment in such a mess, but one of the things I’ve become more aware of as I get older is that I need more down time to recover and regroup and recharge. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course, other than I think I used to not need the recovery time nearly as much as I do now. Then again, it’s also entirely possible I simply don’t remember and it’s merely yet another memory lie my mind is telling me, allowing me to look backward through rosy lenses to see things as markedly better in the past than they are in the present. That’s always the trick of getting older–your mind always wants you to believe that things were better or easier or made more sense in the past, when that wasn’t true; the struggle was simply different back then than it is now, but there’s always some kind of struggle going on in people’s lives. We are also masters at hiding our struggles from other people–I know there have been many times in the past when I wondered how other people managed to do so well while I was doing so poorly; now with the “wisdom” of age and experience I know they were probably all struggling too, I just didn’t know it or was too self-absorbed to notice.
Probably more of that latter part, actually.
The Saints did win yesterday, which was lovely–I had the game on in the background while I read, and then once Paul and I started watching See How They Run I followed it on my iPad and Twitter–but I am finding I am not caring much about the post-season for college football. I’ll watch LSU’s bowl game with Purdue, but other than that, I don’t care very much. I always say that, but inevitably always end up watching the national title game, regardless. I have no stake in the game, other than wanting SEC dominance to continue, and quite frankly, I’ve turned a bit on Georgia–their decision to go for two when up thirty against LSU in the conference title game so they could hit fifty left a sour taste in my mouth; enjoy your run while it lasts, Bulldogs, because your day will come again. And if you think LSU’s players, coaches and fans won’t remember that for the rest of time, think fucking again.
Then again, Joe Burrow did make the Dogs look like a high school second string in 2018 and 2019, so maybe there was some payback there from them, I don’t know. But Cajuns and Louisianans have long memories and will carry a grudge to the grave; and on that score I am definitely an honorary Cajun. (I said to a friend the other day, “I may not remember the reason, but I remember the grudge.”)
So, on that cheerful holiday note, I bid you adieu as I head into the spice mines, Constant Reader. Have a lovely day, whether you celebrate the holiday or not; at least have a lovely free day from worry or care, and I’ll check in which you again later.
Christmas Eve! It’s warmer today than yesterday by a full six whole degrees; it’s 32 degrees instead of 26, as it was yesterday. The The apartment is over all toasty and warm–but the kitchen and upstairs bathroom are not. They are a bearable degree of cold, but I do have the space heater going this morning in here as I type this and swill coffee and wake-up gradually. I slept magnificently last night, and feel very rested and relaxed this morning, which is quite marvelous. I hit my word count somehow yesterday–three thousand words–and hope to do the same today. Today has a higher goal–I’m feeling rather ambitious this morning–and Paul has his trainer this afternoon and is working on a grant proposal, so I should have the solitude I need to bang out the count I need to achieve today. I picked up the mail and ran some other errands yesterday–including taking Paul to Michaels on Claiborne to pick up a gift for me. You’d think by now I’d know he’s going to flout the “no gift” rule every year, because he has and yet every year I think he’s going to stick to it. I think it’s part of that failing memory thing I have going. Anyway, he had the front page of the New Orleans Times-Picayune/Advocate from the morning after the 2020 National Championship game framed and mounted; it’s a full page shot of Joe Burrow running downfield holding up both hands with his forefingers extended, with the headline PERFECT. It’s mounted on gold paper and the frame is purple, and I absolutely love it. Paul always won Christmas when we used to get plan on getting each other gifts, primarily because he pays attention to things I say and takes notes all year to plan for Christmas; I’ll never forget that marvelous year he got us tickets to see the Monte Carlo Ballet Company’s Romeo and Juliet, which I absolutely loved–all because I’d casually mentioned once that I loved ballet and wanted to write about it one day, despite knowing next to nothing about it. (Aside: I keep thinking I want to write a Sherlock Holmes story built around a Nijinsky performance in New Orleans; someday perhaps.)
We also watched, and greatly enjoyed, Glass Onion last night. I actually liked it better than Knives Out, in all honesty, and I love that this is turning into a film series. It reminds me so much of Agatha Christie at her best, and is there a better compliment to give a mystery film than a Christie comparison? I think not. I think Daniel Craig (whom I’ve loved since he emerged from the surf in that square cut swimsuit in Casino Royale, and quickly became one of my favorite James Bonds) is simply fantastic. The Southern accent grated a bit on me at first in Knives Out, but by the end of the movie it didn’t bother me anymore and it didn’t even make me recoil the first time I heard it last night. I think I’d like to write something along the lines of these films sometime–the big cast of suspects, the great detective unraveling the case–because I’ve always wanted to do an Agatha Christie style/classic vintage mystery type house party murder mystery. (Note to self: reread The Affair of the Blood-stained Egg Cosy)
But mother of God, it was cold yesterday when we were out in it. As I said to Paul–the entire world was out shopping yesterday because of course it was; we had to park a very long way from Michaels–“I can hang with this cold for a couple of days, but months of it would make me homicidal.” My grocery pick-up order ended up being canceled; they were unable to get it together for the time I’d selected, and the message was up to two hours minimum delay. At first I was a bit stunned, but then realized everyone and their mom is ordering groceries for pick-up today, and I bet the orders are a lot larger than usual. So I stopped by Rouses, they had a turkey breast in the freezer section, so I picked it up and carried it to the small order register, canceled my pick-up order (all I really needed with the turkey breast; everything else could wait) and then when I got home, put in another order for pick-up on Monday, since I have the day off.
Picking up the mail also ended up with a great gift to the Lost Apartment from the President: there was a stack of envelopes in the mailbox from the IRS for Paul, thirty in all. Turns out his student loans had all been forgiven, retroactively to 2017; the stack of envelopes were refund checks for every payment he’s made since then. So, yes, only more proof that our votes for President Biden and Democrats down the line was the right choices (and always have been for queer people). So keep your “how fucking dare you forgive student loan debt” shit to your fucking selves, you selfish assholes. This did, and will continue, to make a significant difference in our lives going forward; and can I just say, I can’t remember the last time any government policy had such an impact on us directly? Obviously, the Lawrence v. Texas and Obergefell Supreme Court decisions had a macro impact on us, but this is an intimate micro effect that made us both very happy yesterday. And what lovely timing, too–right before Christmas. Let’s go, Brandon indeed.
I get a text from Entergy this morning warning of potential brownouts because of high demand for energy with the cold weather; I would imagine this is because the cold is effecting everywhere, so there’s nowhere Entergy can borrow power from if the supply runs low. That’s kind of scary, really, because people could literally freeze to death down here; imagine that! How weird would it be for someone to freeze to death down in southeastern Louisiana? It does make me a bit concerned about the homeless population here–we have a considerable one–so I hope they all found shelter and a place to stay warm.
And I think as soon as I finish this I am going to get the turkey started in the slow cooker, and curl up in my easy chair with my coffee, a blanket, and Dashing Through the Snowbirds by Donna Andrews. I think my new Christmas tradition every year will be just that; I’ll read Donna’s Christmas mystery for Christmas every year.
And here it is, Sunday morning already, and where did my weekend go? I am not sure, but somehow yesterday managed to get away from me somehow, and I didn’t get nearly what I had hoped done–or at least looked at, at any rate. I allowed myself to sleep in yesterday–today too–and it felt really nice. I got some things done around the house and then ran my errands. When I returned, I realized I had something to do that I’d forgotten about–I remembered right when I was leaving to run the errands (okay, I saw the reminder email before I left to run those errands)–and so I had to prepare something to eat. A friend had offered to let me guest blog at Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen, where you promote yourself and your new book by sharing a recipe. No problem, I thought, forgetting that I don’t really use recipes after the first or second time I make something, and then I never ever make it the same way twice again. I love cooking, I really do, and I think I’m good at it. I’m not a chef by any means–I cannot identify flavors by taste, and I am not familiar enough with tastes and textures to think of combinations that would work together into something delicious without a reference or a starting place. And truth be told, I subscribe very heavily to the notion that if you base your cooking in the basics of Louisiana-style food, it’s always going to be delicious. You can never go wrong with anything that starts with a roux as the base, let’s be honest. Many years ago I had a recipe in the Mystery Writers of America Cookbook, which was way fun; it was a recipe I’d been making for years and years and years and tinkered with a lot, going through many delicious and delightful variations–so I knew I had it written down somewhere. But after I got the reminder email I looked at what was required–and saw to my horror that I also needed pictures. I am not one of those people who regularly documents their food preparation, so I realized that I was going to have to actually make it so I could take the needed pictures; and there were things I would need from the market as I didn’t have them on hand. I also found the recipe and realized I’d improved on it quite a bit since I wrote it down for the cookbook, and I had to rewrite and revise it.
Constant Reader, those meatballs were goddamned delicious.
And I documented their making, as well as took a photo of the plated end product.
LSU got beaten yesterday, 50-30, in the SEC championship game. Georgia was better, as I expected, and none of the breaks really went LSU’s way; and for them to win, they needed all the breaks they could get, Georgia to not play well, and the Tigers needed to play out of their ass. Back-up quarterback Garrett Nussmeier looked amazing, frankly–the future of LSU football clearly on display; a little more control and better chemistry with his receivers and he could become Joey Burrow 2.0. Am I disappointed? Sure, a little, but mostly I am proud of this team and have far they have come since last January and that bowl game, or how far they’ve come since the start of the season. But they won the toughest division in college football, and did some things no one could have predicted. The future looks bright, and LSU is going to be elite again, very soon. (And a shout out to Tulane for winning their conference and winning a trip to the Cotton Bowl. No one saw that coming, either.) TCU lost, which, along with USC’s loss, will cause enough of the chaos I was hoping to see this weekend…although I do think Georgia and Michigan are without question the two best teams in the country, and there’s really no need for a third or fourth place seed. Now we just have to see which bowl game LSU ends up in, and the season is over–far better than anything I had any reason to expect back in August, so thanks again, Tigers. It was an interesting, up and down and exciting season, with some amazing games.
Today I have to go pick up the groceries I ordered; I think the meatballs will get me through the week for lunches, and so I don’t think I need to cook anything else today. I’ll probably have to stop at the market on the way home from work on Monday, after I get a better sense of what we need after putting everything away today (don’t ask, it makes sense in my fevered brain)–I may want to get a salad, or the produce necessary to make one.
As I have been writing my Blatant Self-Promotion posts for A Streetcar Named Murder I have also been realizing that a feeling I’ve been having for quite some time isn’t actually accurate. I have posted a few times over the last few years about feeling disconnected from New Orleans in some weird way, that something had changed and I wasn’t sure what it was, if it was the city itself–which has changed–or something in me or some combination of the two. But in writing these posts about New Orleans, I find myself smiling as I write them–I certainly was smiling when I was writing that guest post the other day for the Wickeds blog, “The Orange Cone” (which could also be the seeds of a longer comic essay about life in New Orleans)–that what has actually shifted is that I’ve kind of gone native. For years, I wrote about the wackiness and silliness and delicious little ironies of life in New Orleans, the eccentricities and oddities, because they stood out to me. They no longer do. I take that stuff for granted now, and it doesn’t even register with me anymore because I’ve become so accustomed to it. Writing about potholes and orange cones, and how they are easily not only in the Top 5 for conversation material between total strangers in the city made me laugh, made me shake my head at the wackiness and strangeness, and well–the whole New Orleans of it. That’s the thing. I never thought I would get to the point where the oddities of New Orleans life would become so commonplace as for me to pay it no mind, but here I proverbially am.
And I kind of love that for me. I love this city. I am by no means an expert on New Orleans; what I do not know about this city, its people, its history and its legends and lore could fill the Great Library at Alexandria. I continue to learn more every day, and with the more I learn the more I realize I don’t know and that I will never become expert, no matter how much I learn and read and absorb and experience. I always kind of smile to myself when people say that I am an expert on all things New Orleans because I am all too aware of how little I actually do know. I don’t know that I will ever stop writing about New Orleans. Writing that historical Sherlock Holmes story set here was so much fun to write and research–and I’ve also discovered an enormous flaw in my research and writing for that story since writing it, which serves as yet another example of the limits of my knowledge and how much deeper you have to go when researching a period of history here (one of the biggest hurricanes to ever hit New Orleans came through the year before the story’s setting; no commentary on rebuilding or about the disaster is a glaring omission). I want to write about Madame La Laurie; I want to write about the Sultan’s Palace and the trunk murders and the kidnapping of that little boy back in the late nineteenth century. I want to write about Storyville and musicians and Prohibition and bootleggers. I want to write about the Axeman, and the grinch, and other legends and lore; every time I find something new in a history or an a New Orleans history website, I immediately start thinking of ways to write about it. I will never run out of material to write about here, never.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines for the day. I am going to read for a little while as I drink coffee and wake up, and then I am going to write until it’s time to go get the groceries…and then come home to write some more. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.
I still am in shock. LSU beat Alabama. I didn’t even dare to hope or dream–sure, every once in a while I’d think my God, if we can pull this off–nah, it’s Alabama. Nobody gave the Tigers a chance, not even me. Yes, of course I wanted to win, hoped we could somehow pull it off (I am always slightly uncomfortable saying we in these instances, reminding myself I am not a part of the team or student body but merely a devoted, rabid fan), but never really wanted to get my hopes up. I’ve hoped and been excited so many times before when I thought LSU had a chance, only to be bitterly disappointed with the inevitable last second Alabama comeback. The Tigers hadn’t beaten Alabama in Baton Rouge since 2010, and had only beaten them once in total since 2011. Add in this would be Alabama’s second regular-season loss (which rarely happens), as well as the fact that Alabama hasn’t had two losses early in November since 2010, so, yeah, you can see why I had my doubts about my Tigers’ chances against the greatest football power of this century. What Coach Saban has done at Alabama is astonishing, remarkable, and may never ever be duplicated by any other team in college football. No one has won the national championship without having to beat Alabama since 2006, with the only exception being 2013–and Auburn, who lost the title game that year, had to beat Alabama to get there. And unlike some of the disappointed Alabama fans–and the haters who relish any loss by Saban and Alabama–I don’t think this is the end of the Alabama dynasty or the Saban juggernaut. It’s also kind of amazing that a two-loss season triggers that kind of talk–which goes to show what a standard Alabama has set for the college football world.
And now Brian Kelly owns the state of Louisiana. Any haters or doubters have been forever silenced. He beat Alabama with a team that had already lost twice, came within a whisker of losing to Auburn, and had only thirty-nine scholarship players left for our bowl game loss after last season. Jayden Daniels, our transfer quarterback, has now done something that not even Joey Burrow could accomplish with his first season at LSU: beating both Auburn and Florida on the road, and beating Alabama. I still am having trouble wrapping my mind around this, I hope you know that, Constant Reader. I fully expected to wake up this morning and find that it had all been a fever dream, that I dreamt it and the game was actually tonight. But no, LSU did beat Alabama with a two-point conversion in overtime that was the gutsiest thing I have seen this season from LSU. And they played their asses off all night.
What a fucking game, seriously.
LSU went three-and-out on their first possession. Alabama marched down the field with ease on their first possession…before Bryce Young threw an interception in the end zone to kill the drive. Alabama made it into the red zone four times in the first half, but only had six points at half-time. LSU had managed to take advantage of a short field to score the first half’s lone touchdown to lead 7-6 at the half. I couldn’t believe it as I watched from my easy chair. The defense was astonishing, making play after play and even after a big play by the Tide, would stiffen and hold. The Tigers fell behind 9-7 in the third quarter, only to score another touchdown to take a 14-9 lead into the fourth quarter. And all through the fourth quarter, as Alabama kept coming back and coming back, LSU kept fighting, clawing their way back into the game. When we got the ball back with the score tied 24-24 with twenty-one seconds left, I questioned Coach Kelly’s decision to take a knee and not try to move the ball into field goal range. Alabama got the ball first in overtime, and after about five or so plays took a 31-24 lead. This is it, I thought to myself, this is how we lose, but hey, it was a much better game than I was expecting and I am so proud of this team! And then Jayden Daniels, on LSU’s first play, scampered twenty-five yards for a touchdown and Coach Kelly decided to go for two and the win, and again, I thought, this is where we lose but I am so proud of those boys only to watch Daniels flip the ball to Mason Taylor in the corner of the end zone and to my shock, delight, and disbelief, LSU won the damned game.
As someone tweeted, This may be unexpectedly the greatest game in the history of LSU football and Tiger Stadium.
And they weren’t wrong. Even in our worst seasons, LSU has always managed some kind of big win, even in our last two seasons of mediocrity we managed to upset Florida both years, and last season we also upset Texas A&M on the last game of the season. But beating Alabama in the same season where we lost to both Florida State and Tennessee (badly) did not seem in the cards. As the Tigers have improved and gotten better, coalescing as a team while Jayden Daniels became more and more comfortable as our quarterback, I kept thinking this year we’ll probably be 9-3 at best, but look out for next year. I still think we are going to be even better next year, but I was not expecting the Tigers to be in the driver’s seat in the West division in early November with a very strong chance at making the SEC title game; if Alabama beats Mississippi next week (and Saban rarely, if ever, loses two games in a row, let alone three in a regular season, LSU can clinch the division with a win over Arkansas. If LSU wins out–including a win over Georgia in the title game–they still won’t make the play-offs, as both Georgia and Tennessee have only one loss while LSU has two, and yes, lost to Tennessee. But Tennessee lost to Georgia…I see a lot of calls for play-off expansion if the unthinkable happens and LSU is an SEC champion who gets locked out of the play-offs. This is kind of like the 1989 season, when two loss Auburn tied with one-loss Alabama and Tennessee for the conference championship.
It’s really great to be a Tiger fan this morning. GEAUX TIGERS!
Monday morning and a good morning to you all. I feel rested this morning, if a bit intimidated by what all I have to get down this week but I’m just going to update and make a new to-do list this morning and just start working my way down it, you know? I was still a little unwell yesterday–I used to be able to shake of a mild fever and still get things done, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. I feel better this morning–I always feel better in the mornings; it tends to come on during the course of the day, alas–so I’m hoping whatever mild thing that was is over and no more. I don’t have any COVID tests here at home (note to self: pick some up today at the office) so I can’t test myself until I get to work, but I don’t think that’s what this is (but better safe than sorry, just in case). I did manage to get some writing done yesterday–not very good writing, but it got done–and I read more of ‘salem’s Lot, which still holds up remarkably well (I just got to the part where Danny Glick dies…oops, spoiler). I know King was going for a more Gothic type style in this book (he patterned it along the lines of Dracula, if I recall correctly) and that sense of brooding and creepiness is there to very good effect. As I said yesterday, it would be edited down today by at least a third if King were a new writer; and I think the shorter books we get nowadays kind of do us a disservice, as both readers and writers? That could also explain why I always feel like my own books don’t cover enough material and so forth–because the books I grew up reading were longer than the books getting published today and the ones that I myself am writing.
We watched The Serpent Queen, House of the Dragon, and Interview with the Vampire last evening (I couldn’t watch the Saints game yesterday–the games are too stressful plus it was hard for me to not root for Joey Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase to do well, so my loyalties were divided which made it more stressful, and this morning I feel like I’ve betrayed the Saints), all of which are getting more interesting. The Serpent Queen has begun to deviate from the actual history–dramatically so, especially in light of last night’s episode–which is disappointing but understanding; the great game of politics in the mid-sixteenth century was insanely complex, so I can see why they’d want to simplify it in order for it to be more easily digested by the audience as most Americans have no clue about anything that happened in that century outside of easily digestible bits without nuance: Henry VIII had six wives; religious conflict; Bloody Mary, Spanish Armada and Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded.
It always cracks me up how everyone loved Game of Thrones but get bored about the real history that puts Martin to shame, really.
I’m plowing ahead on the book even though I know Chapter 5 is a sloppy, disgusting and terrible mess. I need to get the rest of the draft done so I can go through it and start fixing things; I’ll probably need to fix some of it before I can move on to Chapter 6 but the plan this week is to move ahead and try to get as much done as possible so the first draft can be finished by the end of the month so I can then spend the rest of December making the fixes it so desperately needs (I think the primary problem with it is that it’s out of order; I crammed too much into the beginning of the book and now I need to go back and put it in the proper context and order, which will all be a part of the extensive revision process this book is going to be sorely in need of…which just makes me tired, frankly, to think about.). I am trying very hard not to get horribly stressed about everything I need to get done…
And I have a book coming out in six weeks. YIKES.
I missed a short story deadline from this past weekend, which is a shame. But I didn’t feel well all weekend, really–I know the flu shot doesn’t get anyone sick, but can I help it if every time I get one I do? It just seems like an odd coincidence that almost every time I get a flu shot I spend the next few days not feeling 100%–and I hate the feel of a low grade fever. Either go big or go home, god damn it! But my body seems to be sliding back into the normal routine of Monday thru Thursday in the office and Friday as my work-at-home; which I am hoping means that once I get home every night, I can be certain to do some work and chores around the house before settling into my easy chair, exhausted, to wind down before going to bed. We’re all caught up now on our weekly shows, so can go back to Diary of a Gigolo, which is interesting and fun to watch, if a little complicated and sometimes hard to follow–but Spanish-language shows are so much better and faster moving than English language counterparts; they never have a filler episode like so many American shows do to pad out their seasons.
And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.
I know, it catches people off-guard that a sixty year old gay man is a massive football fan, but I’ve never subscribed to stereotypes. I love football, with an especial love for the college game (I used to only watch the Saints in the NFL, but have started rooting for the Cincinnati Bengals because, well, Joe fucking Burrow); I think everyone knows I am a massive LSU fan. (GEAUX TIGERS!)
There really isn’t anything else in the world like a Saturday night in Death Valley. I will remember the 2019 night game against Florida probably for the rest of my life. God, what a great game, and it was so much fun. I am aware that I am digressing.
Anyway, I grew up in a Southern football family (even if we didn’t live in the South, we were from the South and that’s all that matters), so it was inevitable that I should become both a football fan and a football player. I played all four years in high school, all of my cousins also played, and I have close relatives who played at both the college and professional levels (and I don’t mean some small college in the middle of nowhere; I mean in the SEC–Auburn and Alabama, and there may be even more that I don’t know about). I have relatives who were successful coaches. Every fall Saturday the television was tuned into whatever college game was playing–even if we weren’t fans of either team; it’s hard to imagine now with the 24/7 college football coverage, but when I was growing up ABC had a monopoly on all NCAA football games. They would usually play one game of national significance, and then the second game was regional–important to that region. As we did not live in the South, we rarely got to see SEC games other than Alabama–Alabama was almost inevitably the only Southern team of “national interest” throughout the 1970’s (I really don’t remember the 1960’s much, but we lived in Chicago so I imagine we saw a lot of Big Ten and Notre Dame games; I don’t really remember a lot of my life before the suburbs, really–some things, yes, but most things not so much)
I’ve never really read a lot of fiction about football, though; it inevitably winds up being something cliched and tired. I loved North Dallas Forty by Peter Gent; hated Semi-Tough by Dan Jenkins; but do remember enjoying End Zone by Don DeLillo (I was going to reread this recently; but there’s so much to read. I did try to to reread Semi-Tough–but when I opened the book there were racial slurs and other mess on page one, so I threw it in the trash; no thanks). And I’ve also enjoyed other books with football involved, even if it wasn’t necessarily what the book was about. (The Hardy Boys were on the Bayport High football team in The Crisscross Shadow–the only time football is mentioned in the series.) There’s also a tendency, in books about high school and football to make the football players and cheerleaders the villains of the story, which has never really sat right with me. I was never bullied by anyone on the football team, and maybe the cheerleaders weren’t bitches to me because I was on the team and my sister was a cheerleader, but that wasn’t my experience (one thing I truly appreciated about Stephen King’s Christine was the horrible bullies at Libertyville High weren’t the football players but the hard-case kids–which was also my experience; which is probably yet another reason the book is one of my favorites of the King canon, methinks).
But…I can also see why it’s so attractive to make the jocks and cheerleaders the villains of high school dramas. And I sort of did something similar in #shedeservedit, didn’t I? Those boys on the Marysville and Steubenville high school teams certainly fit the bill of villainy.
So, when people started recommending Eli Cranor’s debut Don‘t Know Tough to me, I wasn’t so sure. I just published a book of my own about high school football and the toxicity it can engender in a small town (#shedeservedit), and revisiting my memories of high school and football was harder than I had thought it would be; I thought I could be dispassionate about it all while writing about it (I often write about things to try to distance myself from them and gain some perspective) but I was wrong. It was hard to write that book, much harder than I thought it would be–and it took years (first draft was written in 2015; published in 2022).
But enough people whose opinions I respect were raving about the book, so I got a copy and once I started reading it, there was no way I could stop.
Still feel the burn on my neck. Told Coach it was a ringworm this morning when he pick me up, but it ain’t. It a cigarette, or at least what a lit cigarette do when it stuck in your neck. Just stared at Him when He did it. No way I’s gonna let Him see me hurt. No way. bit a hole through the side of my cheek, swallowed blood, and just stared at Him. Tasted blood all day.
Tasted it while I saw in Ms. Miller’s class. Woke up in Algebra tasting it. Drank milk from a cardboard box at lunch and still, I tasted it. But now it eighth period football. Coach already got the boys lined up on either side of the fifty, a crease in between, a small space for running and tackling, for pain.
This my favorite drill.
I just been standing back here, watching the other boys go at it. The sound of pads popping like sheet metal flapping in a storm.
“Who want next?” holler Bull. Bull ain’t the head coach. Bull coach the defense. He as mean as they come.
One of my favorite books of all time about small towns is Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show (I also love the film, which is extraordinary and one of, in my opinion, the best films made during the 1970’s). I did try to reread it recently–I was interested in refreshing my memory of its gay subplots and the mental breakdown of poor Joe Bob Blanton, but I’d also forgotten the part about the bored teenaged boys decided to fuck some calves, so when I got to that part I put the book down in distaste. But now that I’ve finished Don’t Know Tough, I kind of want to go back and reread The Last Picture Show again (I can skip that distasteful part…weird that I didn’t remember it).
Don’t Know Tough is yet another incredibly impressive debut, further confirming the truth of what I said at the Lefty Award banquet–the last few years have seen so many amazing and diverse and extraordinary debuts that the future of our genre is in very good hands. I won’t lie–when I started reading the book, I wasn’t sure I could keep reading it; I was worried that the entire book would be written in that grammatically garbled first-person voice but as I kept reading that first chapter I got into the rhythm of the language and started seeing the beauty and fluidity of the style choice–which is no small feat to pull off, and pull off consistently, throughout the entire book…to the point I was also a little disappointed that the entire book wasn’t done in that same style. Billy Lowe is the character whose voice this is; and the story of the novel revolves around him and the horrific Shakespearean tragedy that his life actually is. His mother is an alcoholic, and lives with an abusive piece of shit who obviously directs violence at Billy. He has a younger half-brother who was fathered by this POS; he also has an older brother who lives elsewhere. Billy’s situation has turned him into a wild beast of rage with an exceptional gift for channeling that rage into playing football. He’s not big enough in size to go major college, but his coach feels like there’s a chance he could get a football scholarship to a smaller college, and break the cycle of poverty he is trapped in at the moment. Billy is exceptionally compelling–it’s hard to read his first person point of view and not have your heart break for this kid; and hope that it’s all going to work out for him in the end, despite the disturbing pattern of violence in both his life and behavior.
Denton High has made the Arkansas state play-offs, but without Billy in the backfield their chances of advancing are practically nil. It’s important for Denton to do well in the post season because their coach’s job depends on it. Trent Powers is a born-again Christian, whose last coaching job in California crapped out–winning only three games in his final three seasons before being fired. This job is another chance for him, even though his wife and daughters hate relocating to a small town in Arkansas from California (much is made throughout the book of Coach Powers’ Prius, seen by the locals are weird and strange and almost otherworldly and unmanly). Coach Powers also has a very soft spot for his star player, and not just because he’s a star player–he actually feels compassion for the horror the young player’s life has been up to that point, and he wants to help–even if Billy doesn’t want any help from anyone. Billy’s future, to Billy at any rate, is already set, and he’s not going to end up going anywhere or doing anything or having a good life and decent future. He doesn’t see himself being worthy of anything or of doing better than his assigned lot in life.
The Powers family is a direct contrast to Billy’s; loving and nurturing couple, raising two daughters and trying to do right by them. How far is too far to go when helping someone in Billy’s situation, is the question. Coach’s wife–the daughter of a successful football coach who took Trent in when he was a kid from a similar background as Billy’s…and yes, he slept with his coach’s daughter and got her pregnant. So both Coach and his wife have the fear that the same thing will happen to their daughter and Billy–especially when the daughter starts opening up to Billy.
But one night Billy’s abuser is murdered. No one would blame Billy for killing the abusive bastard–well, the law would. But the story of what happened that night is far more complicated, and far more surprising, than the reader can imagine.
The pacing is also exceptional, and I love the contrasts between the third person point of view we see much of the novel in, with the Billy point of view chapters mixed in. The language choices and imagery are spare and tight yet full and rich and immersive–reminding me not only of Megan Abbott and her brilliant Dare Me, but also with a healthy dash of Daniel Woodrell, Tom Franklin, S. A. Cosby, and Kelly J. Ford (all masters of Southern Gothic) mixed in. The little touches of how claustrophobic small Southern towns can be, the class disparities between the haves and the have nots, and what teenagers in those types of environments was simply masterful.
I was completely blown away by this amazing work, and suspect that you will be as well. Highly recommended. I cannot wait to see what Eli Cranor does next.
Monday morning, you gave me no warning, of what was to be.
I had thought the Super Bowl was an evening game–what can I say? I never watch as a general rule, and when the Saints won it, it was a night game–so was very pleasantly surprised to find it on early last night, so I started watching. I was sorry to see the Bengals lose, but as I said yesterday–if I learned anything by watching Joe Burrow play at LSU, they won’t lose next time, and it will probably be next year. The Bengals are also only going to get better with every passing year. So, heads up, Cincinnati fans–you have decades of greatness before you. Congratulations to the Rams are in order as well; the Bengal defense didn’t get the job done when they needed to in the end.
It was a good weekend around here, in which I did manage to not only get rested but got a lot done. “The Rosary of Broken Promises” is out of my hair now for good; I worked on the anthology; and I started getting the draft of “Condos for Sale or Rent” underway. I do still have a ridiculous amount of things to get done this week, but am feeling much better about the entire thing now. Parades start on Friday, which makes working and getting home from work and running errands entirely problematic for the next two weeks; but when it is all over it will be March and time will start running out across the board. Heavy heaving sigh–where did February go? I have emails to answer this morning and more organizing to get done today–it’s really non-stop, to be honest–but I am no longer tired the way I was last week and feel more motivated than I have in a while, which is a good thing. That fatigue last week was the fucking pits, frankly, and now I worry that I’ll require time from every trip to recover going forward, which wasn’t something I had in the cards for this year.
But…you have to play what you’re dealt, right?
I also reread Chlorine yesterday, and was…well, in all honesty, I was a little underwhelmed by what I have written already in this manuscript. Sure, the voice and tone are right–but the word rhythm is off, and I could also tell that I worked on chapters without revisiting what had already been written; lots of contradictions and changes from chapter to chapter which, obviously, will need to be corrected and changed when I start working on it full force again around April, most likely. But I managed to get some needed and necessary research taken care of over the weekend that will help pull it all together in some ways, plus it anchors the book in a time of the year which I hadn’t been doing up to now. It kind of messes with some other history, but that means I can play around a bit more with fact and fiction, which is also incredibly fun.
And on that note I am going to head into the spice mines. Don’t have much to say today, really–sorry about the brevity of the entry–but I’ll check in with you again tomorrow.
Sunday morning, and not only is the Super Bowl today, but it’s also our Costco run day. Hurray! And in a moment of perfect timing, this morning I also got the emailed rebate coupon from my Costco Visa, so we have almost a hundred dollars off whatever we spend there today. One really has to love serendipity when it happens, doesn’t one? It’s been a hot minute since we’ve been to Costco, and I am really missing my dark chocolate sea salt caramels…we’ve been out for a while. And with the next two weekends lost to parades, this is the last opportunity we have to go until after March.
Is it insane that I am excited about going to Costco? It also says a lot about the quality of my life, doesn’t it? LOL. Yesterday was a good day–I also had another good night’s sleep, which was lovely–and I got a lot accomplished around the Lost Apartment as far as cleaning and organizing are concerned. Everything looks, if still a bit cluttered, neat and tidy–at least the clutter is stacked nicely–and it really does make a difference in how I feel about the place. I also worked on “Condos for Sale or Rent” for a bit yesterday, made groceries (got Doris Day parking and everything), and settled in to watch the Olympics. I wasn’t thrilled with the ice dancing results–as always, the Americans were under-scored–but we’ll get a medal of some kind; the French were always a lock on the gold anyway. And both of our top teams won a silver medal in the team competition, so…really, can’t complain about too much at all here.
I got the edits for “The Rosary of Broken Promises” yesterday, and it took me about ten minutes to get through them and make corrections where necessary. The story turned out a lot better than I had obviously thought, but the good news is the story is finished and turned in and the edits are done; so I can put the file away, add the title to the Table of Contents for my next short story collection, and move the electronic file into the This Town and other Stories folder. I have ten published stories, which is about half of the new collection, and of the other ten, well, four have complete drafts–and of course, I have two more stories to finish in the next few months as well. So, that will give me sixteen at some point, which is lovely, and even closer to a finished collection–would be, should I decide to throw a novella in there at some point. I also retrieved my folder on Chlorine so I could again read over what I’ve already written–with an eye to getting back to it in March or April; I’ve not really decided yet what I should do next other than these short stories. I also started writing a blog post about Joey Burrow that I will try to get finished today–I don’t think I’ve been such a fan of any pro quarterback since the glory days of Drew Brees–otherwise there isn’t much point. I won’t be watching the Super Bowl–or certainly not all the entire thing–since I have to get up early tomorrow (all week, in fact; I have to go into the office four mornings and I have to get up early again on Friday to take the car in for its oil change), but obviously the first thing I will do upon rising tomorrow is see how it all turned out.
I also want to go to the gym today after we go to Costco–I know, crazy, right?–but it looks lovely outside today (yesterday was so beautiful I got out the charcoal and barbecued burgers) so the walk to the gym will undoubtedly be lovely, and I want to get a lot of work done today once that’s over and done with. Paul is still working on Festival programming, so I need to make certain I am utilizing my free time wisely. After organizing the books and making them look more orderly yesterday, I am debating not buying any more books until I can get some more of these read and donated and out of the house. It does seem weird to be continually buying books when you have so many that you’ve never read–many of them classics and award-winners–and so maybe, just maybe, the time I usually was spending in the evenings writing could be utilized for reading for an hour or so every night, which will gradually bring me through the books. (I doubt I will get much reading done during parade season, frankly.) The only parades I really care about this year are Muses and Iris, frankly; but there are reasons Paul and I might end up going out there every night of parades, or many of them, at any rate. (Not my story to tell, but being supportive of a friend.) Note to self: get more take home COVID tests from the office.
And on that note, I am going to bring this to a close and start doing some more clean-up around here before we go to Costco. Paul’s alarm just went off, which means he’ll be getting up soon (later rather than sooner, of course) and I need more coffee to fortify myself for the journey.
Have a lovely Super Bowl Sunday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you again later.