Chick-a-Boom (Don’t Ya Jes’ Love It)

I love football.

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 Dont 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.

Love Child

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.

The Way You Do The Things You Do

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.

A Place in the Sun

Tuesday morning and I could have easily stayed in bed another three or four hours. I slept very well again last night–the alarm was quite vicious and cruel this morning–and I am blearily drinking coffee and hoping to wake up completely before getting in the shower. I have a lot of work to do this week–and so many emails that have piled up in the meantime that I am not certain I will ever get it under control–and so must sally forth into the week, regardless of how much I would rather just get back in bed and slip under the blankets and go back to sleep, really. My batteries need recharging in a serious way.

I wanted to stay up last night to watch the men’s Olympic figure skating–but by the time ten pm rolled around the skaters I wanted to watch and see–the top ones–still hadn’t gotten on the ice and I rather sadly went to bed. I was glad to see Nathan Chen broke the world record for points in the short program–and disappointed that two defending Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu had made a colossal mistake in his to wind up in eighth, with probably no shot at the podium. I wanted Nathan to win–still do–but I was looking forward to their showdown as two of the greatest male skaters of all time. AT least I can stay up later on Thursday to watch their free skates.

Man, I am still a shadow of my usual self this morning. I feel, I don’t know, removed from my day, somehow, if that makes sense? Like I’m experiencing my day from a distance? Hopefully the caffeine will kick into gear relatively soon because, as always, I am behind on everything.

I turned in the short story I had due yesterday this morning; it’s not, I fear, as good as it could be or could have been; I am not, despite the marvelous high I got over the course of the weekend about my writing and career, feeling terribly confident about the work I’ve recently turned in. Then again I am not the best judge of my own work, and while I am sort of hoping I am wrong, I don’t think I am this time, either. I like the title, and I like the concept behind the story; I am not sure it fires on every cylinder and I am also not sure that it necessarily works. But I don’t know that rereading it or looking it over today will do me any good; I am still a little fried from finishing the book and then traveling this past weekend. I also have to work in the office on Monday–so four days in the office next week (AIEEEEE) which means four days of six am waking up to an alarm, heavy heaving sigh.

I’ve also got to take the car into the dealership this weekend–I have a tire leaking air (again) and it’s due for an oil change, which means I’ll need to get up early either Friday or Saturday. But…I do have another story due at the end of this month, and another due at the end of the next–and at some point all these rewrites and revisions are going to hit my inbox. Heavy heaving sigh–but at least there’s no football to distract me all day Saturday and Sunday anymore–although I may tune into the Super Bowl to keep an eye on Joey B and Ja’Marr Chase (GEAUX TIGERS!).

And on that note, I am bringing this to an end and heading back into the spice mines. Here’s hoping for some more coherency tomorrow.

You Keep Me Hangin’ On

Set me free, why don’t you, babe?

I cannot get used to having the house at a moderate temperature. It’s so weird to get up and not freeze as I come downstairs and make my first cup of coffee, while I get ready for work, anything. I also had insomnia last night, alas–but again, first time in a very long time that’s happened, so I guess I can live with it, really. I had a very good and productive day yesterday–I got caught up some on the book (still behind, but nothing that can’t be defeated by some good work getting done every day) and I also made progress on my emails. I doubt I will get the inbox emptied today, but stranger things have happened before, and could even happen again.

We finished Ozark last night, and now have to wait until the second half of the season drops before finding out what happens to the members of the cast. I can’t imagine this having a happy ending–they just keep going from bad situations to worse ones, and I can’t help but feel that Marty and Wendy are not going to have a happy ending where they escape from the criminal world and go back to having some semblance of a normal family life again; unless they get into witness protection or something like that. Julia Garner also continues to kill it as Ruth Langmore–I see another Emmy in her future–and overall, it’s really been a terrific show from the beginning. We also got caught up on Peacemaker, and started the new season of Servant, which is even weirder than the first two seasons–which is actually saying a great deal.

Apparently the NFL had some great play-off games this weekend; as I’ve noted before, outside of the Saints I generally don’t follow (and don’t care) very much about pro football; now that so many LSU players are in the NFL I pay a little more attention to them because–well, LSU players; and how could I not pay attention to the professional success of the kids from that great 2019 season, especially Joe Burrow, who still wears an LSU wrist band in every game he plays for the Bengals? I can’t root against Tyrann Mathieu or Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Kansas City Chiefs) or Justin Jefferson (Vikings), or whenever I hear a former LSU player’s name called in a game it becomes very difficult for me to root against them (unless, of course, they play for the Falcons, in which case all bets are off). It’s weird–it’s been a while since the post-season continued without the Saints, so I could stop paying attention to football on the weekends and get things done.

The weekend was good, over all. I did manage to get what I planned to get done with the book–didn’t quite finish the filing, organizing and cleaning, though–and I did brainstorm for a bit about two stories I am writing and are due soon (yikes) while I was waiting for Paul to finish whatever it was he was doing (work no doubt) and come downstairs to watch television last evening. It’s very strange how bipolar being a writer can make one; Saturday I was struggling with the work, which was why I only did one chapter instead of the planned two. I was certain Saturday that the book was garbage, unfixable, and was going to be the end of my career. Yesterday I zipped through three chapters, thinking this isn’t bad at all, really and occasionally this is actually working and I am enjoying myself. Seriously, it’s a wonder I haven’t had a complete mental breakdown multiple times since I started working in this literally insane industry.

But fortunately I do enjoy writing. I do enjoy doing the work–even when I hate doing the work, which is usually when it just won’t come for whatever reason and I am forcing it–and I actually enjoy editing and revising because you are making it better, which is always a pleasant feeling. And that’s how I was feeling with it yesterday–I am making this better–and why I had so much fun with it. Hopefully that same sense of joy will resurface tonight–although every once in a while I will get to a part that has to be completely redone because I changed something earlier in the book and then I sob internally before I start screaming internally.

But it’s always up and down, and if anything, my mood swings and chemical imbalances make me perfect for being a writer; because it has proven to be a rollercoaster ride of its own (kind of like the chemical imbalances) and if anything, I’ve gotten used to my life feeling like a rollercoaster; slow climbs to heights, speedy descents into lows, and the ever popular stomach-churning loop-de-loops. But I write because I love to write, and after learning how to edit and revise, I love the process of making the work better than it originally was–much as I would love to believe I can write a perfect first draft I no longer make myself crazy trying to get it all right the first time. And there are times I have stories that I don’t know how to fix (usually short stories; I still have many from college writing classes that have potential but have to actually be revised or edited in some way to make them publishable; I did finally figure out how to make “Whim of the Wind” work–after almost forty years–and that’s one of the stories I plan to revisit when I am finished with this manuscript. I do enjoy writing, even if the business of writing makes me crazy; I also like writing what I want to write. Sure, every now and then I think to myself “hey this is a really great commercial idea”–but usually it’s more along the lines of “I think this is an interesting story and I want to take a shot at writing it.”

And sometimes…sometimes the final book doesn’t feel as complete and finished as I would like, even if it sells and gets nice reviews and award recognition; in which case I will always revisit the base idea but with different characters, different location, and different styles of writing. I know I have a tendency to always use the same type of structure with my short stories–which I need to stop doing, because when you do a collection it becomes rather obvious, which I noticed (even if no one else did) with Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories…

Heavy sigh.

And on that note, I am off to the spice mines on a chilly morning. Have a great Monday, Constant Reader.

Ask Any Girl

Sunday morning and I wish I was coming down.

But a cold spell has descended upon New Orleans overnight, and its chilly in the Lost Apartment this morning. I overslept–much later than ever–and didn’t rise until ten this morning; obviously, all that “outgoing energy” I spent on the MWA ZOOM board orientation drained my batteries completely. That, and the cold, I suspect, combined to make me not want to get out of bed this morning–in fact, I could just as easily go straight back to bed and probably could fall asleep for a while. I am sure that has more to do with the cold than anything else; all I really want to do is get underneath a blanket and stay warm–so when I finish this I am going to go sit in my easy chair under a blanket and read some more of the new Alafair Burke novel before diving into this morning’s writing. I am going to do my best to pretend my email inbox doesn’t exist today and solely focus on resting, reading, and writing.

We finished watching Murders at Starved Rock last night, which was actually kind of annoying; the entire premise of the documentary is the man who served over forty years for the murders might be innocent, and yet they finished filming before the DNA tests came back (due in 2022)? I mean, sure, they can always do one more episode later, but come on–you left the audience hanging? Why put the documentary together and release it now? Paul and I found this to be terribly irritating and annoying. We then moved on to Season 2 of Cheer–I had wondered if they would do another season, given how incredibly popular the original was back in those early days of the pandemic; I actually think it may have come out before the pandemic–it’s so hard to remember these things now. I had wondered how they would do the second season–given how successful the first was–and I have to say, the decision to focus on how the sudden fame has affected everyone there at Navarro College and the town, while still trying to get prepared for the next Nationals–and taking a look at their arch-rival from Trinity Valley as well–was a very wise choice. The Trinity Valley coach also makes a good villain, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. So far so good; will keep you posted as we get further into the season.

We haven’t even gotten to the part where one of the breakout stars is arrested for inappropriate behavior with an underaged boy yet–although I am not sure I am all that keen on watching how that plays out, really, other than in a “can’t look away from the train wreck” kind of way. And isn’t that really the allure of reality television in the first place? The opportunity to be voyeurs without judgment? (Hmmm, that would be an excellent jumping off point for an essay, wouldn’t it? Hmmm.)

But I need to write today; reshaping and revising my manuscript so that it’s ready to go to the editor, and everything else I have to do is going onto the back-burner to simmer for a little while longer. I have been thinking also a lot about a couple of stories I need to get finished, “The Rosary of Broken Promises” and “Solace in a Dying Hour,” and I need to go over “The Sound of Snow Falling” one more time. I was also very pleased to see the Cincinnati Bengals won their play-off game yesterday (I don’t really care about the NFL outside of the Saints, but I, as an LSU fan, am also a huge fan of both Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, who are now killing it at the professional level so I follow the Bengals a bit; I also pay attention to the Chiefs more than I ordinarily would because two favorite LSU players are also on their roster.)

And on that note, I am getting another cup of coffee and retiring to my chair to read some more of Alafair’s new book before diving back into mine.

Have a happy Sunday, Constant Reader!

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!