St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)

Lundi Gras, and the downward slope of the marathon. Huzzah! I have a lot to do today; all trying to get it finished in the window before the streets close for tonight’s parades, Proteus and Orpheus. I need to run to the grocery store, get the mail, and am also hoping to get to the gym as well; I’ve not been since last Sunday, but the combination of all the cardio involved with the walking to and from the office, as well as shortened hours because of the parades, has conspired to keep me from my workouts. I cannot go Wednesday morning, either, because the gym is closed until noon; by then I will be at work. So, if I don’t work out today I can’t get to the gym again until Thursday morning, which would be most inopportune. But I am confident I will get back into the swing of my workouts again; despite the Mardi Gras interruption–that always happened in the past, after all, and I was always able to get back to it.

Exhaustion has also precluded me from writing and/or editing over the last week or so; I have plans to get some writing done today as well as some laundry. I have to decide on a story to write for two anthologies, and I desperately need to rewrite/revise/edit another that is due by the end of the month. I am also behind on revisions of the WIP, and I need to get moving on the Scotty book as well. This will, of course, be a short work week; Wednesday thru Friday, so I am hopeful that I can get a lot accomplished in this time period. I should probably get dressed and head out for the errands; the later I wait, the more likely there won’t be a place to park when I get back.

I started reading Killers of the Flower Moon before bed, but it just didn’t grab me right away; I’ll go back to it, I am sure. Instead I started reading The Black Prince of Florence by Catherine Fletcher (Florence! Medicis! History!), and am loving it so far. I doubt that I’ll ever tire of either Italian history, or the Medici family.

I did manage to get back to reading on The Short Story Project as well this weekend, between parades and physical exhaustion. The first was the title story of Joe Hill’s collection, 20th Century Ghost:

The best time to see her is when the place is almost full.

There is the well-known story of the man who wanders in for a late show and finds the vast six-hundred-seat theater almost deserted. Halfway through the movie, he glances around and discovers her sitting next to him, in a chair that had moments before been empty. Her witness stares at her. She turns her head and stares back. She has a nosebleed. Her eyes are wide, stricken. My heart hurts, she whispers. I have to step out for a moment. Will you tell me what I miss? It is in this instant that the person looking at her realizes she is as insubstantial as the shifting blue ray of light cast by the projector. It is possible to see the next seat over through her body. As she rises from her chair, she fades away.

Then there is the story about the group of friends who go into the Rosebud together on a Thursday night. One of the bunch sits down next to a woman by herself, a woman in blue. When the movie doesn’t start right away, the person who sat down beside her decides to make conversation. What’s playing tomorrow? he asks her. The theater is dark tomorrow, she whispers. This is the last show. Shortly after the movie begins she vanishes. On the drive home, the man who spoke to her is killed in a car accident.

This is a great short story; a ghost story about a haunted movie theater. It moves very quickly, and I love how Hill sucks you in almost immediately. I am greatly enjoying reading Hill’s short stories; and am looking forward to getting back into this collection. It also wraps up perfectly. I’ll be honest; I tried reading two of Hill’s novels and simply couldn’t get into them–which is probably more on me than on him–but as I said, I am loving the short stories, and will undoubtedly go back to the novels; I often find something that didn’t grab me the first time will wind up being something I love when I try it again later.

Then I moved back to Lawrence Block’s Alive in Shape and Color, and the next story up was “Girl with a Fan” by Nicholas Christopher.

On the fifth of June, 1944, a young man stepped off the 9:13 train from Lyon, squinting into the morning light. Tall and slender, he had an asymmetrical face: the right eye higher than the left, the left cheek planed more than the right. He was wearing a brown suit, black shirt, yellow tie, and brown fedora. His suit was rumpled, his boots scuffed. He was carrying a leather briefcase with a brass lock. His pants cuffs were faintly speckled with yellow paint.

He cast a long shadow as he walked down the platform. Halfway to the station, two men in leather coats came up from behind and gripped his arms. One of them pressed a pistol in his side, the other grabbed his briefcase. They veered away from the station, guiding him roughly down an alley to a waiting car. A man in dark glasses was behind the wheel. He was bald, with an eagle tattooed at the base of his skull.

At first, this story seemed a bit off to me; it didn’t really fit with the rest of the stories I’ve read in Block’s ‘inspired by a painting’ anthologies. For one thing, it jumped around in time and place, going from Nazi-occupied France to the south seas back to France in the late nineteenth century again; but linking these three different narratives was Gauguin’s painting, “Girl with a Fan”: where the fan came from, when the work was actually painted, and what happened–was happening–with the painting under the Nazi pillaging of the occupied country. Once I grasped what Christopher was doing with his story, I began enjoying it; it’s not easy to juggle three different stories, locations, and time-lines in the space of one short story. Well done, Mr. Christopher, well done indeed!

I also read some others, and will probably continue reading some more today; but I shall save those for a future entry.

And now, back to the spice mines. Here’s a hunk to get you through your own Lundi Gras.

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The Power of Love

The sun is shining. I haven’t checked the weather yet, but both Iris and Tucks were moved up an hour today due to thunderstorm forecasts. It may rain, despite the sunshine this morning; my windows are covered in condensation so it’s definitely humid out there.

A quick perusal of the weather forecast, however, shows a possibility of a thunderstorm this afternoon around 2–although the little image of the cloud with a lightning bolt on it also says, right above it, “0% chance of rain.” It’s also going to be in the 70’s today; beautiful weather for Iris and Tucks; though it might rain on Endymion tonight. I’m not concerned–Endymion doesn’t go down St. Charles so we never watch it. We used to go out dancing on Endymion Saturday, so we would walk down the parade route to get to the Quarter, and be buried in beads on the way (it does follow St. Charles in the CBD, and goes around Lee Circle before heading back up to the Superdome). But we don’t go dancing during Mardi Gras anymore–I don’t think  my old legs could handle it; they are very tired and sore this morning from all the walking and the outreach yesterday.

Yesterday was beautiful; I walked to work around one o’clock and took lots of pictures along the way. The Quarter was a madhouse; second lines and marching bands everywhere. We gave away 4500 condoms yesterday; we started at 3:15. I was supposed to work the second shift as well as the first, but at 6:00 when the others showed up we were down to less than 200 condoms, so I wished them well and walked home. Paul had been invited to a parade party at the New Orleans Advocate office on St. Charles; I couldn’t go because of outreach. But as I walked home, and walked past their office, I glanced in through the entry way and saw Paul; so I called his name and I got in. Their building, which used to house Michaud’s Cajun restaurant for years, are gorgeous; it’s where I saw Colson Whitehead speak last year. But I had never been up onto their balcony, which is way up there. We went up and watched the start of the Hermes parade, and the decided to walk home. I got some great pictures from up there as well.

This one is a particular favorite:

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Gorgeous, right?

We came home, fed the cats, and I took a shower while Paul watched the end of the LSU-Missouri gymnastics meet on-line, and then we headed out to the corner for Krewe d’Etat and Morpheus. We caught a shit ton of stuff out there–Morpheus is a great parade, but by the time it arrives the crowd has thinned out so much it’s easy to catch things, and they throw a lot. Then when it was all over, around 11:36 last night, we came inside and chilled. I finished reading Pictures at a Revolution last night, which I’ll blog about at some point after all the madness is over–just a few more days!

But now I have to pick another non-fiction book to read before bed, and I am leaning towards some true-crime-ish; perhaps the Edgar nominated Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. I don’t read near enough true crime, and I also just realized I am not reading anything fictional, either; between the trip to Alabama, working on the anthology, and Carnival, I’ve not really sat down and picked something out to read. And I am also behind on the short story project. Heavy heaving sigh.

But I did take Monday off–tomorrow is going to be insane, four parades on the Avenue–so I am hoping to be able to use that day to get some rest, get back to the gym, and get caught up on things I am too tired to do over this weekend.

And now, back to the spice mines. Iris rolls in a little over half an hour!