Chiseled in Stone

Sunday! It’s raining and gray outside this morning; I’m not sure (because I haven’t looked) what that means for today’s parades (Femme Fatale, Carrollton, and King Arthur–which is over fifty floats and loaded down with gay men, most of whom I know so I always get buried with beads), but I will take a look later. This morning i need to get some work done, and I need to make it to the gym for the start of week three of my workouts–which means today is three sets rather than two of everything. However, I decided it only made sense to cut the treadmill/cardio part of my workouts during parade season; it only makes sense, you know–as I am doing a lot of standing and jumping and walking during the parades. We only went to the night parades yesterday–Sparta and Pygmalion–because Paul was sleeping during the day (it’s festival crunch time, and he stays up really late working) and yes, I could have gone by myself–but it’s not as much fun without him. If the parades are–heaven forbid–rained out, then I will have a lot of free time to get things done, rather than trying to get them done before and after the parades.

Instead of parades yesterday afternoon, I spent most of the day writing some and finishing rereading Mary Higgins Clark’s Where Are the Children? It really is a hard book to put down, which was, of course, Mrs. Clark’s biggest strength as a writer–that, and her ability to tap into women’s biggest fears. I’m writing a rather lengthy post about the book already–so I won’t discuss it too much here. And if the parades are cancelled, I’ll probably get that finished today.

So, I intend to spend this morning prepping for the gym and answering emails, then when I get home from the gym I’ll get cleaned up and write some before the parades get here–if they are, indeed, coming; they might just be delayed. There aren’t any evening parades today, so of course they can all have their scheduled departures pushed back; they may also abandon the marching bands and walking crews to roll in the rain. I don’t know if we have the physical stamina to stand in the rain for four hours–neither one of us can risk getting sick at this point–but then again, there are overhanging balconies at the corner, so who knows? I guess I’ll judge how bad the weather is when I am walking to the gym this morning.

I also now have to make the all-important decision on what to read next. I think I’m going to take a break from books that I have to read and read something just for the fun of it, and I think I’m going to choose a cozy by a writer I’ve not read before. When I said I wanted to diversify my reading–and started, last year, doing so by reading more authors of color–I didn’t just mean reading books by authors marginalized by race or sexuality; I also meant books outside of what I generally read. I don’t read a lot of cozies, and I’m not exactly sure why that is; I’ve read Donna Andrews, Elaine Viets, Leslie Budewitz and others, but I am now questioning whether or not those actually qualified as cozies? I generally get cozies in the gift bags given out at conferences, and I do buy them from time to time–I support women writers, and I do feel like cozies are treated as somewhat less than by the crime  genre in general–and I also feel like it’s time to change that perception, and give cozies their due. I have an interesting looking one on hand from Ali Brandon, Double Booked for Murder, and I think that’s what I am going to read next. My cozy reading is woefully less than what it should be, and I want to start making up for that lost time. After that, I’ll probably move on back to the books I need to read and one of my reading projects, whether it’s the Reread Project or the Diversity Project (I am thinking Mary Stewart’s The Moonspinners is way overdue for a reread), or even, perhaps, some Cornell Woolrich.

Woolrich is one of those pulpy writers from the mid-twentieth century who wrote a lot of books and short stories, but was also a miserable alcoholic and a gay man who lived with his mother most of his life. He wrote the story Hitchcock adapted as Rear Window, and wrote several other important noir-esque pulpy novels. I had started reading The Night Has a Thousand Eyes a few years ago, but got sidetracked by something else–probably reading for an award–and never got back to it, which is a shame; I greatly enjoyed it, and I find Woolrich to be an interesting character. I wish I had the time and the energy and the wherewithal to devote more to writing nonfiction; I think a biography of Woolrich would make for interesting reading (I also have always wanted to do one of John D. MacDonald, but again–would I ever have the time to read his–or Woolrich’s, for that matter–entire canon? Not entirely likely; maybe once I’ve retired from the day job and have days to fill with writing and reading and research); I am also curious because it seems most writers from that time period–including Faulkner, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald–all had drinking problems; as did Woolrich. I’m not surprised a gay man living in those times lapsed into alcoholism–it’s a wonder more gay men of my generation don’t have lingering addiction problems.

I’m still dealing with my creative ADD problem, alas; being aware that it’s going on and happening doesn’t make it easier to control. I just realized yesterday–as I was writing notes in my journal about another short story idea (“Die a Little Death”) that I’d also completely forgotten about “Never Kiss a Stranger”; which is still yet another long story (novella?) I am in process with, along with “Festival of the Redeemer,” and still another I’ve not pulled out and worked on in over a year. It’s absolutely insane how many works I currently have in some kind of progress, which means ninety-five percent of them will most likely never be finished or see print. (Well over a hundred short stories or novellas; I have at least four novel manuscripts in some sort of progress; and fragments of at least five other novels–and none of this is counting essays in progress, either…yeah, it’s unlikely that I will ever finish all of this. And still I persist. Just like I will never read all the novels I want to read, I will never finish writing everything I want to write. Sigh.)

All right, I’m going to go read for a little while before I brave the rain to go to the gym. Have a lovely Sunday, everyone.

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The Morning After

I got up early this morning (well, early for a Saturday) to take a streetcar named St. Charles down to Audubon Park for the NO/AIDS Walk. I was scheduled to work in the Carevan, our mobile testing unit–and had to wonder, why has it taken me this many years to figure out that clearly the Carevan is the place to work other than the Prevention table? The Carevan is air conditioned. 

It is sad how many years it has taken me to figure this out.

I also took the streetcar home, taking pictures of the beautiful homes on the way home–I don’t know why I didn’t do so on the way there, other than it was early and I’d only had two cups of coffee so my mind wasn’t exactly thinking very clearly–but on both trips, plus the walk through Audubon Park (on the way there, I made a wrong turn at the first lagoon and wound up having to walk all the way around the park–I’d forgotten there was a golf course in the middle of Audubon Park–but didn’t make that mistake on the way back to the streetcar stop) I felt connected to New Orleans again in a way that I haven’t in a while; as ‘touristy’ and ‘cliched’ as the St. Charles streetcar line may be, there’s nothing like taking a leisurely ride on it to make you feel connected to the city again. St. Charles Avenue, and all the houses on it, are so beautiful, and scenic–and all the hidden beauty in Audubon Park, along with the beautiful and massive live oaks everywhere…well, it’s been a while, you know? I love New Orleans so much, but I get so wrapped up in my day-to-day life and existence that I forget sometimes how much I love it here and how grateful I am that I get to live here.

There was, for example, a wedding party having their pictures taken in the park among the live oaks that I stumbled on as I walked back to St. Charles. I didn’t photobomb them–though I thought about it–but they were done and walked back to the Avenue by the time I reached them. There was a portable snowball stand set up on the Avenue, and I took a couple of pictures of the bridal party getting snowballs. It was such a uniquely New Orleans moment.

 

And riding the streetcar, wandering through the park–despite the heat and the heavy air, I couldn’t help but think about the next Scotty book, and how I need to make it more about New Orleans, how I can add layers and more depth to it as a book, about how to connect the characters in the case itself to the city and make it more New Orleans somehow. I feel like that’s been missing somehow in my work lately, at least in the last few books: that sense of New Orleans that was always there before.  I think I managed to get some of that into Garden District Gothic, but I am never sure. I know that the Chanse books were starting to feel like the setting was generic; they could have been in any city, they just happened to be set in New Orleans. That was, I think, why the series was starting to feel stale to me, and partly why I decided to end it.

I’m worn out now, exhausted from the heat and the humidity and the heavy thoughts. I am going to repair to my easy chair for a lovely relaxing day of college football (GEAUX TIGERS!) and reading Leslie Budewitz’ Assault and Pepper, in preparation for spending the day tomorrow in the spice mines.