Half of My Heart

So, it’s now Tropical Storm Sally, with landfall expected sometime on Tuesday, given its current projections, and we are right smack dab in the center of the Cone of Uncertainty–although the path overnight has shifted somewhat– it going right over us; with storm surge through Lake Borgne through the Rigolets and into Pontchartrain as well as the mouth of the river. The surge is only supposed to be a maximum of twelve feet, which is okay since the levees can handle up to sixteen, but yikes if you’re outside the levee system!

I got caught in a downpour yesterday while running my errands–file this under What Else Is New–which I honestly don’t mind; it’s kind of becoming expected for me. I’m surprised when I run errands and don’t get caught in a downpour. What’s annoying is how rain makes New Orleans drivers–never the best in ideal circumstances–makes them forget everything (what little) they actually know about how to drive and become even bigger morons. I am also amazed at how many people cannot deal with the possibility of getting wet in the rain, or having to walk a few extra yards in the pouring rain. Um, if I’ve learned anything about New Orleans rain in the nearly twenty-five years I’ve lived here, it’s that it doesn’t matter: you’re going to get soaked, no matter what, and once you reach a certain point in soaking wet it really doesn’t matter anymore. You can only get SO wet.

It’s really not rocket science, people. Seriously.

I started writing a short story which started forming in my brain on Friday night–“Fear Death by Water”–and that title is actually a quote from T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Lands.” Nothing to fear here, Constant Reader–while I do own a copy of Four Quartets I’ve still not read it; there was a lengthy quote from the poem at the opening of a book I was moving in the ever-shifting attempts to declutter the Lost Apartment Friday evening–the book, which I loved and should probably reread, was Nightmare Alley, which my friend Megan recommended to me and it is quite the dark noir ride, But those four words–fear death by water–struck a chord in my creative brain and I heard the opening sentence very clearly in my head: But she would have never gone out on a boat, she was always afraid of water and as the sentence began to crystallize in my head, I started seeing the rest of the opening scene and also that this would be a gay NOPD detective Blaine Tujague story. So after I put the groceries away yesterday afternoon and before changing out of the clothes that got wet in the downpour and showering, I opened a new Word document and began writing this story. It stalled out about a hundred or so words in; I am hoping to get back and spend some time with it again today.

The vacuum works better now that the filter has been clean, but it’s still not as strong as it once was; or perhaps I am merely remembering it being more powerful. I am not really sure. It takes more than a couple of runs over things to get the properly vacuumed (I love that the Brits say “hoovered”, as they turned the brand name of a vacuum into a verb). So the Lost Apartment looks much better this morning than it has in a while, but i still need to get some more work on it done. It’s a start, though, and every little step works.

We watched The Babysitter: Killer Queen last night, and while the previews made it look quite marvelous, it wasn’t really. The highlight was Robbie Amell shirtless, and he was the only person in it who seemed to have committed to actually performing, other than the male lead and the new female love interest. (Note to producers: you can never go wrong with Robbie Amell shirtless.) We also started watching a new series called The Duchess, which had moments of humor but seemed kind of flat in all; we’ll give it another episode to see if it picks up. We are also sort of losing interest in Raised by Wolves; the most recent episode struck us both as a bit dull and we’re losing interest in the story; it’s taking a bit too long for the story to really start moving. I was playing Bubble Pop and checking social media while watching the fourth episode, and let’s face it, that’s a pretty damning indictment.

I also started Babylon Berlin yesterday, and it’s quite marvelously written.

I way overslept this morning. Our phones of course went crazy around six in the morning with the emergency alert about the state of emergency being declared with Hurricane Sally, which may now be a category 2 and again, I am worrying about the power situation more than anything else; I have a freezer filled with food that will perish should we lose power for a significant amount of time, which would absolutely suck rocks. It appears there will be lots of rain as well as high winds that we’ll be dealing with most of tomorrow; I’ve not received any notice yet about work so currently the plan is still for me to go in to the office. That, of course, could change at any moment, so we shall see. No, we aren’t planning on evacuating–but that may change given the power situation, and if we do lose power, at least I can get some reading done.

I plan on trying to make some progress with my emails today, as well as trying to work on the story and getting chapter eight finished on the book as well.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Sunday, wherever you are, and stay safe.

I Forgot That You Existed

Good evening, Constant Reader! Look at this–two blogs in one day! More bang for your buck, as it were. A twofer, as Laura roils the Gulf and dances ever closer to our shores here on the Gulf Coast–although all we’re going to get here is a tropical storm effect; the state line is going to get a direct hit and I worry about Calcasieu Parish and the other Gulf parishes that are going to get hammered. I hope everyone is able to get out safely; I know they were bussing people without the means to evacuate to shelters in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

The storm surge–predicted to be at least twenty feet–may come as far inland as thirty miles. Lake Charles could be completely destroyed by morning.

Please, Constant Reader, keep that area in your thoughts tonight.

Hurricane season is always so traumatizing on the Gulf Coast, seriously.

It’s actually weird that New Orleans is a part of the Gulf Coast, since we really aren’t on the coast, technically; we are actually about 100 miles up the river from the Gulf of Mexico. Wow, right? But you also have to remember that’s in river miles; the river doesn’t run in a straight line to the Gulf from the port of New Orleans.

On the other hand, technically  we are on the Gulf coast, because Lake Pontchartrain isn’t really a lake, and neither is Lake Borgne. Lake Borgne is actually a very wide-mouthed bay–its opening to the Gulf is actually wider than the mouths of both Pensacola and Choctawhatchee Bays in the panhandle of Florida, and Lake Borgne opens into Lake Pontchartain through the Rigolets–a very narrow passage connecting the two “lakes” and therefore making Pontchartrain actually an extension of Borgne “bay” (Chef Menteur pass also connects the two ‘lakes’; I always forget about that one because I’ve never actually seen it, but I’ve crossed the bridge at the Rigolets, and of course, the twin spans are close to it where Pontchartrain begins to narrow towards the mouth). So, technically (Pontchartrain is shallow), a low draught boat could sail from the Gulf to the shores of Lake Pontchartrain. The British attack on New Orleans during the War of 1812 actually sailed into Lake Borgne, because it was faster and easier to get to the city that way than sailing up the river against the strong current. (In fairness, Lake Borgne also used to be more enclosed; those wetlands are sadly long gone.)

New Orleans geography is interesting, isn’t it?

The notorious MR-GO channel (Mississippi River Gulf Outlet), was cut from the river into Lake Borgne as a shipping channel to make it faster for ships to get from the gulf to port in New Orleans. Naturally, no one really used it, and it gained notoriety when it was a channel for Katrina storm surge to devastate St. Bernard Parish and the lower 9th ward–being nicknamed the Hurricane Highway for the devastation it was responsible for, and the fact that it was barely used didn’t help matters. Environmentalists estimate Mr. Go was responsible for the loss of over 27000 acres of wetlands; it’s now closed for good and attempts to repair the damage it caused are still underway. The wetlands always served as a barrier to hurricane storm surges–those wetlands were not only critical for the environment and for fish, birds, etc.; but they slowed storm surge as it came rushing for the dry lands.

But you know, OIL.

I generally don’t waste time on regrets; what I always call the woulda-shoulda-coulda’s. But one thing I do regret is not focusing more in my work on the environmental costs Louisiana has paid over the years; and I also regret not getting to know the rest of the state better. New Orleans is first and foremost in my heart, of course, and always will be, but falling in love with Louisiana took a longer time for me, and I do regret that. I regret the free time I used to have not being used to explore the state more, getting to know it more, understanding the incredible culture and history of this bizarre state built by river silt drained from 2/3rds of the country. I never really had a dependable car before–one that I didn’t take on a long drive without some degree of depridation and fear and crossing of fingers. Now, of course, I have a highly dependable car–but my weekends are always taken up by getting things done and the recharging of my batteries. Maybe the next time I have a three day weekend I’ll take a day and explore; there’s lots of interesting places that aren’t that far away–the old River Road, Jackson Barracks, the Battle of New Orleans battleground, and Houma…there’s so much of interest, and that’s not even crossing the lake!

Heavy thoughts as I await the storm’s outer bands to come to New Orleans–definitely a tourist who isn’t welcome here.

And on that note, I think I’m going to finish reading Lovecraft Country.

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Dancing With Our Hands Tied

Good morning, Wednesday, how is everyone holding up so far this week?

So Laura apparently isn’t going to be too much of a thing in New Orleans, but things aren’t looking good for eastern Texas/western Louisiana. Keep safe, my friends, and everyone else, do keep them in your thoughts and send them positive energy, as I certainly shall be doing until this too has passed. It’s similar to 2005’s Rita; following the same path and intensifying pattern. We’ll still get about 2 to 4 feet of storm surge into Lakes Borgne and Pontchartrain, and a lot of sudden, intense rain (street flooding), but for the most part, New Orleans has yet again dodged a bullet.

And compared to a direct hit, yes, that’s not too much of a thing in New Orleans.

It was very strange to not have to go into the office this week (I did have to go by yesterday–and will again today–to get more supplies) to do any work; especially when you take into consideration the vacation days I took last week. I’ve not been into the office to actually work now since last Wednesday–a full seven days–and it’s made me feel very disconnected from my job this morning; I really don’t know how all of you who’ve been having to work at home all this time without ever going into your offices have managed to do that without feeling untethered at best, disconnected at worst. At this point, it feels as though the pandemic has been going on forever, and the last days of what was previously our normal existence–late February, early March–seem like ancient history to me now, and I’ve already accepted the fact that life, that world, that way of existing, is gone forever. Whatever it is we will see when this ends–should it ever end–will be completely different. This is one of those “sea change” experiences, where life and society and culture change irrevocably forever. The world before the first World War ceased to exist after it ended; the interregnum between the two wars was a kind of stasis world, where all the problems unresolved by the Treaty of Versailles coupled with the crash of the American–and by extension, world–economy created a bizarre vacuum which fascism swept in to fill, with the inevitable war that followed–one that took a look at what had been, up to that time, called “the Great War” and basically said, “Hold my beer, you ain’t seen nothing yet.” The world in the spring of 1914 was almost completely different in almost every way in the fall of 1945–a span of only thirty one years.

So what will our world, culture and society look like in a post-pandemic environment? Will we ever get to said post-pandemic environment? Or will those of us who survive this look back at this time and say, “ah, yes, the beginning of the dystopia?”

How depressing. Which is one of many reasons why I never look forward or back, and try to live in the now. The now is depressing enough as is, if you let it be.

While I didn’t work on the book yesterday or read anything, I did educate myself somewhat by watching the Kings and Generals channel on Youtube, something I discovered recently. I watched the episodes on the Battle of Lepanto and The 1565 Siege of Malta, which were extremely informative and educational. I had previously watched the Fall of Constantinople in 1453; the Sack of Constantinople in 1204; the Battle of Mojacs; and the Siege of Vienna. Most of my study of European history has always been western-centric, primarily focusing on Great Britain, Spain, and France, with a smattering of Germany/Holy Roman Empire thrown in for good measure (and primarily the Hapsburgs); it is only recently that I’ve realized how much I’ve not looked at eastern Europe, other than some post Peter the Great Russian history–which also is primarily because it impacted western Europe. My knowledge of Asian history is non-existent; and if you ignore the scanty knowledge of ancient Egypt, I really don’t know much about African history either, other than the colonial period and not much of that. I also don’t know much about Latin America, either. Several years ago–after the Italy trip of beloved memory–I started looking into Venetian history, which is entangled heavily with that of the Byzantine Empire and its successor, the Ottoman Empire–both of which I know very little about, and as I started reading more about these eastern European empires (the Venetian included), I began to get a better concept and grasp on how little of world history I actually knew.

I would love to have the time to study more of the history of Constantinople/Istanbul, as the capital of two major historical empires that covered 1500 years of human history.

We also watched a two part documentary on HBO about the Michelle Carter/Conrad Roy case, I Love You Now Die. If the names mean nothing to you, it’s the case where the boyfriend committed suicide while his girlfriend was texting him supposedly ordering him to do it. The facts of the case–which I hadn’t really looked much into before–aren’t what they seem and it was an interesting case; her conviction, held up under appeal, set a legal precedent that can be seen as either scary or good. Was she a sociopath? Or were they both emotionally damaged teenagers locked into a strange co-dependent relationship that was actually toxic, made it even more dangerous because no one else knew how toxic it had actually become? As I watched, I wondered–as I am wont to do–how I would tell the story were I to fictionalize it, and finally decided that the best way to do it would be from multiple points of view: both mothers, the sister of the suicide, and one of the Michelle’s “friends” from high school–all of whom claimed to not be really friends of hers in the first place–and the real story is loneliness, on the parts of both kis, really. A truly sad story, without any real answers.

While I was making condom packs yesterday I also continued with my 1970’s film festival by watching the 1972 Robert Redford film The Candidate, which is one of the most cynical political films I’ve ever seen–and almost every political film made since that time has been highly cynical. The 1970’s was an interesting decade for film; a transitional period where the old Hollywood was done away with once and for all and cynical, brutal realism took its place. Watching these films has also reminded me, sometimes painfully, how questionable style and design choices were in that decade–clothing, cars, buildings, etc. It was an ugly decade–remember the hair styles, with the carefully blown dry “feathered bangs” hair-sprayed into place? Sideburns and porn-staches? The bell bottoms and earth tones? The enormous steel cars that were essentially tanks? How dirty everything seemed, and how trash littered the sides of the roads and waterways? It’s all there in these films, as well as that dark, bitter cynicism.

The Candidate is about an idealistic young lawyer who works for social justice causes named Bill McKay, whose father was a powerful two-term governor of California. Recruited by a political operative played to sleazy perfection by Peter Boyle, McKay–who has always disdained politics–agrees to run for senator against a long-term, popular Republican incumbent. No one expects him to win, and McKay agrees to it so he can talk about issues that are important to him–and he immediately makes it clear he wants his campaign to  have nothing to do with his father. The movie follows him from his own first faltering public appearances and watches as he slowly develops into an actual politician. He’s perfectly fine with everything, and he wins the primary–but the numbers extrapolate to a humiliating defeat in the general…so he starts watering down his message, speaking in generalities and never addressing issues directly–and his campaign begins to take off, and winning becomes more important to him than the issues, to the point he even allows his father, played with sleazy perfection by two-time Oscar winner Melvyn Douglas, to get involved in the campaign. He pulls off the upset and wins, and as the celebrations begin, he asks his campaign manager, “So, what happens now?” as no thought has ever been put into the future should he actually win; and that’s how the movie ends, with that question unanswered. It’s a very strong indictment of modern politics, and still relevant today; essentially, he wins because he is handsome and never says anything that means anything. We never really are sure, as the viewer, what he wants and what he stands for; which is a very deliberate choice by the filmmakers–we’re basically shown a little bit behind the curtain, but mostly we see what the voters would see. This movie doesn’t have a Frank Capra ending, but the typical cynical view of the 1970’s. The screenplay, incidentally, won an Oscar.

Aliens was the second movie on yesterday’s condom packing double feature. I had originally intended to watch Alien and Aliens back to back; don’t remember why I didn’t rewatch Aliens back then, but I didn’t, but I also figured it was equally appropriate to rewatch the day after rewatching Jaws, because it too is a monster movie, and one of the best of all time. Sigourney Weaver is even better in this one than she was in the first; and while I love Marlee Matlin and think she’s a terrific talent, I still think Weaver should have got the Oscar for this (if not for Alien). Once again, a primary theme for the movie is “no one listens to the woman who is always proven to be right”–amazing how timeless that theme has proven to be–and again, as in the first film, the Ripley character is given a relationship to soften her and make her more “womanly”; in the first film it’s the cat–which really, I felt, weakened her character, while at least in this one it’s the little girl, Newt, that she risks her life to go back for when everyone else, including me, is screaming get the fuck out of there are you fucking crazy? There are also some other terrific performances in this movie, which is a non-stop adrenaline ride, including Bill Paxton’s first performance of note as Hudson; Michael Biehn (why was he not a bigger star?) in a  great follow-up to The Terminator as Hicks; and Paul Reiser, who was so sleazily perfect as the company rep (and should have been nominated for an Oscar himself) that I have never been able to stand watching him in anything else since I saw this movie for the first time because I hated him so much as Burke that I cannot see him as anything else. Everyone in the cast is terrific; but there are some small things that date the film–Hudson makes an illegal alien joke about Vasquez (would this still be a thing that far into the future?); the analog transmissions rather than digital; and of course–the cigarette smoking; would cigarettes never evolve over time?

If all goes well, I expect to be here tomorrow morning. Have a great day, Constant Reader.

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Love You Down

Tuesday’s blue, and Wednesday, too.

There’s a freeze warning on the north shore this morning; and it’s not supposedly much warmer here on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain this morning. The low for the morning was in the forties; the high for the day is mid-sixties. Given there’s another one of those arctic wave things or whatever they are called in the rest of the country, complete with snow and ice and so forth, I’m definitely feeling lucky here in New Orleans this morning–primarily that, for one, I am able to sit at my desk this gray morning without having to have the space heater on, no house shoes on my feet or a hat on my head and I am not freezing to death–all of which are, frankly, wonderful things.

Huzzah!

Very little progress was made on the writing front yesterday–it’s not that I was tired last night or anything, it’s more along the lines of needing to relax more than anything else. Monday nights are always a concern for me; as Tuesday is my second long day of the week and I am always worried that exhaustion will rule the day when my alarm goes off on Tuesday morning–but I woke up before the alarm this morning, even if I did stay in bed and hit snooze a few times because the bed was warm and comfortable. I am more hopeful for tonight; tomorrow is a mere half-day and I don’t have to go into the office until eleven thirty, so getting up early isn’t a concern and of course, I only have to be there for four hours or so before getting out. We did catch this week’s episode of Watchmen, which is really terrific, and of course we’ve now got an episode of Catherine the Great to get caught up on this evening. (Paul was late getting home last night; writing a grant, he didn’t get home until I was getting ready to climb into bed)

Tomorrow is also Pay-the-Bills Day, always an unpleasant morning. Heavy heaving sigh. And I think I may still owe for my phone; I’ll have to check to see if I paid the phone bill last time; I’m not certain that I did.

I’ve almost caught up on all of my emails, too. Maybe today I can get the rest of them out of my inbox.

One can hope, at any rate.

I’m also still reading Richard Campanella’s Bourbon Street, which is fantastic, and haven’t made any further progress on Ross Macdonald’s The Ferguson Affair. It actually doesn’t seem like I’ve been getting much done lately, does it? I also need to start getting my new journal ready; one thing I actually did accomplish this past weekend was managing to buy a new journal, as the old one is nearly full. I cannot tell you, Constant Reader, how much I enjoy keeping a journal again; I wish I’d never stopped, to be honest. It’s incredibly cool, frankly, to have something to jot down notes and ideas into; there’s another book idea that’s been brewing inside me for a while and I make notes on it periodically; I also have been paying attention to how other writers do their work, and I think maybe my haphazard way of writing and plotting novels needs to be seriously revamped and overhauled. I do know what I wanted to accomplish, and what I am trying to say, in this new book; I don’t know why I am having so much trouble getting back to work on it as well as fixing the core problem of it, at least the problem I think I’ve been having–which is making the main character likable. I also can’t help but feel that the story itself is based on a contrivance; and what I really need to do is figure out how to fix that core issue at the heart of the book and the rest will fall into place.

But oh, how i wish I could just sit down for two or three hours and write. It would be nirvana.

And on that note, tis time to head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

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