Red Frame/White Light

AH, the first day of the week that doesn’t have a name–after Lundi Gras, Mardi Gras, and Ash Wednesday, just plain Thursday seems a bit on the dull side. Today is the last day before I return to work; and yes, I am working at home tomorrow, in case you were wondering–but I do have to run by the office at some point to pick up some more of my work at home work. I figure tomorrow morning I’ll get up, bang out my blog entry, and then work until I am caught up before taking this work back into the office and picking up more work. Yesterday was a stunningly beautiful day for running the errands I needed to get done–CVS, mail, making groceries–the high was in the eighties and it was sunny as fuck; the low being only 63. I continue to make my way out from the emotional devastation and move toward an uneasy and unwilling acceptance. The world keeps turning, after all, and much as I would love nothing more than the self-indulgence of wallowing in self-pity, I have things due and things to do and books to write and books to read and errands to run and a life to maintain. I need to get my life together and make plans. I need to get back into shape by taking exercise more regularly and I need to take better care of myself. A lot has happened in the world since everything around me turned upside down; things I ordinarily would have taken some kind of stance on or said something about–like all the nastiness about how Madonna looked at the Grammys, or the Palestine East train disaster, or Marjorie Traitor Green’s call for secession (because it worked out so well for the conservatives the last time they tried to leave the Union). In some ways it was kind of nice to have something that crowded out all the rest of the noise in the world; being caught up in my own stuff enabled me to dismiss Traitor Green’s idiocy as precisely what it was–her pathetic need for attention and validation from people equally stupid as she is and from the media because that’s what she is all about; attention and grifting. While there are criticisms that can be leveled at Madonna, trashing her appearance is reductive and misogynistic. I would have preferred Madonna to age gracefully and not have any work done, personally–what a message of solidarity about the misogyny of agism she could have sent by staying natural–but it’s her body, her face and her decision. She would be criticized for aging naturally (“MADONNA LETS HERSELF GO is what they would report, with lots of bold type and exclamation points) or for gaining weight (remember the breathless reporting about Elizabeth Taylor’s weight?); so why not let her do what she wants to do and what makes her feel good about herself? If you want to be horrified by how she looks, why not use that as a way to extrapolate out into a broader commentary about what our society and culture does to women in the public eye?

But that would require intelligence and work, and why do anything hard when it’s easier to get clicks by being shallow and horrible?

Yay for freedom of the press!

Anyway.

I allowed myself to sleep late again this morning–it’s kind of sad what I consider “sleeping late” these days–but it was another good night’s sleep, which I am grateful for. I did run errands yesterday, which was necessary, and then when I got home I started working on cleaning the apartment: laundry, dishes, etc. After awhile of that, I curled up for a few hours with Tara Laskowski’s marvelous One Night Gone, which I am greatly enjoying, and then I made dinner last night before watching a few more episodes of Class, which we should finish soon–since Outer Banks‘ third season is dropping tonight or tomorrow. Today is the last day of this bereavement leave, which I did need–there was simply no way I could have returned to work on Monday, seriously–and I am not even sure this coming Monday’s return to the office will be okay. But I can’t stay out forever, but I am also forcing myself to use this time to rest and relax. My toe is still throbbing a bit this morning, but I am going to rewrap it in a little while and of course it’s going to be elevated and iced and all that jazz. I do find that I am still short of temper and easily irritated; I seriously snapped at Paul yesterday which was completely unnecessary. I guess I am still dealing with it on some interior levels below the consciousness. It did occur to me yesterday that one thing I should do, or try to, is write a long essay about my mother. Not for publication, of course, or even for posting on here (the further we get away from the funeral, the more uncertain I am growing that I should have even brought it up here at all in the first place). That might help, I think.

And it might get me writing again. I do have that short story I need to be working on (although an alternative story occurred to me last night–one that would need some revisions, but could work; I just need to dig it out and reread it), and I do want go get all this filing done today before working tomorrow at home. I also need to investigate my dryer situation and see if it is, indeed, something I can potentially repair myself–it would be marvelous to not have to buy a new dryer–but that will require me to spend some time on researching it on-line, which I can do as long as I don’t bother getting sidetracked or distracted by some other shining object in the meantime. I think I am going to spend some more time reading my book this morning before moving on to filing and dishes. I also need to trim some books that I can take to the library sale this weekend, and of course, I need to start revising and editing the manuscripts.

Life goes on, the world keeps turning, and tax liabilities continue to accrue, so I am heading into the spice mines. May you have a marvelous Thursday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you tomorrow.

Souvenir

Happy Mardi Gras! Everywhere else it’s just Tuesday.

I was exhausted yesterday, and essentially useless. Scooter demanded a lap almost as soon as I got home, and apparently he missed me. I collapsed into my easy chair, he climbed into my lap and started purring as well as making biscuits before curling up and sleeping (and purring in his sleep), which was comforting and relaxing at the same time. I finally slept last night, and feel more human and Greg-like this morning than I have in a while. The bed felt wonderful, especially this morning, and i really would have been more than delighted and happy to have stayed in bed for another few hours. But I agreed to do a Facebook page takeover this morning to promote A Streetcar Named Murder (what better way to do promo for a New Orleans book than on Fat Tuesday?) several months ago, and at the time I didn’t know what the future held for this year’s Carnival for me and my family. I would imagine the neutral ground on St. Charles is crowded with parade-goers already; it was already a zoo on the neutral ground yesterday when I got home. I knew we would most likely be taking today as a holiday and not going anywhere or doing anything to celebrate, figuring we would be exhausted by Fat Tuesday and staying in to recover. I am out on bereavement leave from work until Friday, which is nice, and I will probably begin the process of figuring out where I am with things and digging out from under (my email inbox is out of control; I had it under control until a few weeks ago), and making groceries and getting organized. It’ll be nice to be home this weekend after three weekends in a row away. I’ve driven almost three thousand miles over the last three weekends, and my poor car is probably wondering what the fuck at this point.

But it’s good to be home, good to be feeling like myself again, and there is a lot of work that needs to be done around here. I really let everything slide these last few weeks–don’t even want to think about how much filing there is to do, and organizing–and of course, the kitchen/office is a total mess as always. I’d started making progress on the gradual thorough clean of the apartment I’d planned as a New Year’s goal before everything went up into the air; I’m not sure where I left off but do know that it won’t kill me if I simply start over again. I’d really like things to be neat and tidy (another of my mother’s legacies) so I can get to work on my manuscript editing that I am so terribly behind on. I also have a short story to write. So basically I have the rest of this week off to get my shit together before my work-at-home Friday and then my first weekend at home since January. I am going to probably do some bits and pieces around here today but after the Facebook page takeover thing I think I am simply going to spend the rest of the day relaxing and resting and recovering and hopefully regaining my equilibrium. I started listening to Tara Laskowski’s One Night Gone in the car yesterday after finishing The Other Mother, and I’m going to probably dedicate some time to reading more of it today. Just looking around this morning as I write this and sip my oh-so-delicious coffee I made for myself this morning (I do laugh at myself and how particular I’ve become about things I like, like my morning coffee; it’s never the same when I have to get hotel coffee or make it in one of those little coffee maker things they have in some hotel rooms). I need to take out the trash and put dishes away before cleaning out the sink again and running another load through the dishwasher. I also need to figure out what to do about our dryer situation; I’m going to try to fix it myself before giving up and buying a new one.

My toe is still slightly painful this morning, but I can walk on it without either wincing or limping so I consider that a victory. I’m going to wrap it again this morning as well as ice it and keep it elevated (hence the day in my chair reading Tara’s marvelous book); tomorrow is going to be errands day (which will require lists, and we all know how much I love a good to-do list) and probably laundry and other chores, and I’ll also probably start digging into the editorial process with my two manuscripts. I would also like to start back to the gym for stretching and cardio soon; maybe even go to some yoga classes, which can also help me with focus and relaxation. I need to start taking better care of myself; eating better, dropping some weight, getting some exercise, and so forth; it will make me feel better physically and mentally; and of course, I now have the great joy of audiobooks for the treadmill, elliptical, and stationary bike. I also have to accept that my work schedule may never go back to what it used to be, and the rest of my working life before retirement is going to be this schedule that I’ve been working now for months.

But I feel better about almost everything this morning–amazing what a good night’s sleep will do for you–and I know grief will sucker-punch me again at least a few more times–but I think I’ve achieved acceptance at last, which is a start to healing. I know I’ll never get over losing Mom, but I think I am starting down the path of learning to live with the loss.

One step at a time, one day at a time, one task at a time.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Fat Tuesday, Constant Reader, and I’ll check in with you again later–I need to write up The Other Mother–and thank you again for all the kindness.

Twelfth Night

The other night, as I walked to Lilette to meet my friend Laura for dinner, I walked past this house:

It made me smile, as the New Orleans dedication for decorating for the holidays (any holiday, really) always does.

I posted this picture after taking it, along with a caption along the lines of it’s almost Twelfth Night and the start of Carnival! Someone commented, a bit surprised, “already?” which once again made me realize how different living in New Orleans is from living anywhere else, really, in the country. Nobody outside of Louisiana (unless they’re Catholic) understands how Carnival actually works, which makes sense. If it doesn’t affect you, how would you know? So, I decided explaining Carnival would be an excellent blatant self-promotion post, particularly since A Streetcar Named Murder is built around (sort of) a Carnival krewe and their membership recruitment ball. So, buckle up, Constant Reader, I’m going to give you a sort of primer for New Orleans Carnival.

Carnival begins on Twelfth Night, January 6th, and the season continues until it ends at midnight on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras is actually the last day of Carnival, not the entire season; but over the years Mardi Gras has become synonymous with Carnival, but the locals will always correct you when you call it Mardi Gras instead of Carnival; and ‘mardi gras” literally translates from the French to Fat Tuesday), when the bells of St. Louis toll the beginning of Lent and the police clear everyone off the streets of the city (no one is supposed to be out on the streets after midnight; I used to love to stand on the balcony at the Parade watching the mounted police officers slowly making their way down Bourbon Street as the crowds disperse before them–and behind them the street is empty). I’m not going to get into the history of Carnival and how it all began as a “farewell to the flesh” before the religious solemnity and penance of Lent; but that’s the part most people don’t get if you’re not from here or Catholic. Christmas, Carnival, Lent, and Easter are all tied together. Twelfth Night is always a fixed date because Christmas is fixed for December 25th; but since Easter’s date is never the same, neither is the date for Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday, which is always forty days before Easter.

So, first things first. If you want to know all there is to know about each year’s Carnival, you start by getting a copy of Arthur Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide, seen below. (You can order it on-line if you’re curious about it.)

(Don’t @ me, I know it should be Carnival Guide, but Mr. Hardy is Mr. Expert on all things Carnival, so we let him get away with it every year.)

The guide is invaluable, even though now there’s a parade tracker app so you always know where the parades are. The parades are what most people associate with New Orleans and Carnival/Mardi Gras; the big ones that shut down St. Charles Avenue and Canal Street aren’t until the last two weekends before Fat Tuesday. I don’t even know how many parades pass by our corner during parade season, but it’s a lot. (I’m hearing that the parade routes are being truncated a bit because of not having enough police officers to pull parade duty, but I don’t pay a lot of attention and just look at the Guide–which I have yet to get a copy of this year.) So, parade season is the two weekends prior to Fat Tuesday. The first weekend is easy, really; there’s parades on Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon. Then we get a two day respite before they start in earnest, and there’s always at least two a night beginning the Wednesday before Fat Tuesday. Muses is Thursday night, following two others; there are also three on that Friday. Saturday afternoon is my favorite, Iris, which is followed by Tucks. Endymion is the big parade on Saturday night but it has a different route; it doesn’t come down St. Charles unless rain has caused it to be postponed for a night (when Endymion rolls down St. Charles on a Sunday night it’s a nightmare out there at the corner because Endymion is HUGE). There are parades all day Sunday, culminating with Bacchus Sunday night; Orpheus is the grand finale on Monday night, and of course on Fat Tuesday Rex follows Iris and then come the truck parades. There are also other, smaller, walking parades earlier; Krewe de Vieux, for example, is enormous and is a Saturday night later this month. After Twelfth Night and before Parade Season, there are balls and parties and walking parades and all kinds of celebrations leading up to the parades. The bleachers are already going up at Liberty Circle and all along St. Charles.

So, what does A Streetcar Named Murder, which is set in October, have to do with Carnival, and how is this a blatant self-promotion post?

Because the plot of Streetcar is set around an October costume ball for one of the newer Carnival krewes, the completely fictitious Krewe of Boudicca (it was Athena in earlier drafts, until I realized that I should check to make sure such a krewe doesn’t exist anywhere and sure enough, there is one; either in Metairie or on the north shore), which is also kind of new-member rush for the krewe. Our main character, Valerie, has no interest in belonging to a krewe; as she says, she’s fine “just going to parades and catching throws.” But her neighbor/best friend Lorna wants to join Boudicca, and she is dragging an unwilling Valerie along for the ball. It’s at the ball that the murder takes place; turns out the membership chair for Boudicca is Valerie’s nemesis, and of courea Valerie is the one who finds the victim after she’s stabbed.

And of course, it’s Carnival season again in New Orleans! So more info and blatant self-promotion to come!

Friends and Neighbors

Ah, community.

What is a cozy mystery without one? I don’t know because I’ve never read one that didn’t have a strong sense of community in it, but for me, the depictions of community is one of the primary draws of cozies.

As I have mentioned before, the vast majority of cozies are generally set in small towns, small communities where everyone always seems to come together, everyone knows everyone, and there’s an undercurrent of caring about others that makes them cozy and comfortable to read. I was worried at first about setting one in New Orleans, to be honest; New Orleans is many things to many different people, but I’ve kind of always seen New Orleans as a darker city than most, and that darkness that is always out there on the periphery of the bright sunshine, no matter how cheerful you might be or how lovely of a day it is. Part of it is the history here–New Orleans was a center of the slave trade, after all, and you don’t get much darker than human trafficking–and of course, the city has always been a major port…and ports aren’t exactly known as sedate places. There has always been a lot of crime here, and you really can’t go anywhere in New Orleans without overhearing people talking about the “crime problem” and shaking their heads at the decline of Western civilization as we know it down here by the riverside.

So, how can I write a light, breezy novel about a city that is so dark?

The key was community, of course. New Orleans is a city, but it’s also a city of neighborhoods, and always has been. Generations of families passed homes and property down to their children and their children and so on. “Where’d you go to high school?” was a question asked because the answer told the asker lots of things. Private school or public? What neighborhood did you grow up in? And as I thought more about it, I realized my lonely block in the lower Garden District has that sense of community to it. Neighbors look out for neighbors. We’ve lived in the same place since either 2002 or 2003; I’m never really sure I can remember when we moved onto the property; those years between moving back here in 2001 and Katrina are kind of blurry for me. But we’ve gotten to know our landlady pretty well as well as some of our neighbors; others have come and gone over the years but we always all end up down at the corner for parades during Carnival, catching throws and hanging out and having a good time.

And I realized I could do the same for Valerie.

In A Streetcar Named Murder I only introduced the reader to a few members of Valerie’s community in the Irish Channel: her best friend and neighbor Lorna; the gay couple next door in one side of a double and one’s mother, Mrs. Domenico, on the other side; and her friend Stacia who lives further down the street. I also mentioned there were a couple of houses being used as Air BnB’s, which may play a part in a book should the series get picked up. I had learned my lesson from the failed Paige spin-off series years ago; the mouthy, brash and snarky best friend cannot be the main character, but the book/community needed someone like that in the book. The main character has to be kind–but there’s always a more colorful secondary character necessary to say the funny and borderline mean things in place of the main character.

This is where Lorna comes in.

Lorna is very colorful indeed, and was a lot of fun to create. She’s married to an airline pilot who is often gone for long stretches of time (his name is Jack Farrow; since he’s a pilot she calls him Captain Jack Farrow). She’s British, speaks multiple languages, is fiercely intelligent and doggedly loyal. She also writes lusty romance novels that are huge bestsellers under the name Felicity Deveraux. Lorna is a great best friend who is also always up for anything, and naturally, she has a huge imagination and a big personality. Interesting and fun as Lorna is, I don’t think I would ever write about her as the main character because, like Paige, she would need to be toned down and I don’t really want to do that to her.

It is Lorna’s ambition to join a Mardi Gras krewe that actually puts Valerie at the scene of the crime in the book. See how that works?

But her neighborhood isn’t her only community, either; there’s a community around Rare Things, the antiques store she inherits–Randall Charpentier, her new boss; Dee, her co-worker; and of course the people who are in and out of the shop–the hot guy from an outer parish who repairs and refinishes furniture, for one–on a regular basis. If it becomes a series, I can flit the cases back and forth from her neighborhood to the store and vice versa; there are all kinds of plots and stories I can tell that could come from both.

And there’s still another community that Valerie belongs to that was only touched on in the first book–the parents’ group at Loyola High (it doesn’t exist in real life, folks, but it’s based on Jesuit), the Cardirents. This is how Valerie knew the victim in this book; they were both in the group, with a fraught history (which is more fraught than Valerie ever knew).

So, yes, it is possible to create the sense of community a cozy mystery requires in New Orleans; New Orleans, in fact, is ripe for it.

And on that note, I will sign off here. More blatant self-promotion to come, no worries on that score!

If Not For You

One of the most fun, for me, things about being a writer is being able to pay homage to books and writers I’ve enjoyed or felt a connection to in some way. I do this in at least every book I write–sometimes it’s as little a thing as having one of my characters reading a book I greatly enjoyed–and sometimes it’s a little more sly and tongue in cheek. For one example, I wondered occasionally while writing Bury Me in Shadows if anyone would notice that the name of the plantation house that burned during the Civil Was was Blackwood Hall–I only called it that once or twice; I usually referred to it as “the ruins”–and that it was a ghost story…hence The Ghost of Blackwood Hall, which had always been one of my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries when I was a kid (my favorite books in any series were ones that dealt with ghosts, hauntings, or the supernatural–it never was anything supernatural–in them; even as a kid I had, apparently, this morbid fascination with death and the afterlife that has continued into my adulthood). Vieux CarrĂ© Voodoo was also inspired, in some ways, by The Mystery of the Fiery Eye, one of my favorite Three Investigators mysteries–a jewel stolen from an idol that cultists will kill to get back is at the heart of both stories, and I also took inspiration somewhat from Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, which I had also read and loved as a child.

I’ve not picked up a Nancy Drew mystery in years to read through, until recently. I remember the series fondly–it wasn’t my favorite, nor was the Hardy Boys; but those books were more easily accessible and easier to find in stores and libraries than the other kids’ series, and with the kind of obsessive behavior I’ve always had–which hasn’t tempered much with the passage of time–once I started reading a series I wanted to read (and own) the complete set. This odd childhood obsession has never abated, even as I am now past sixty; I don’t have room to have all my series books out displayed on bookshelves (they are some of the boxes in the attic and the storage unit) and I think I am missing a few volumes from each series I do collect–but without being able to put them out, it’s hard for me to know which ones I am missing, so I’ve kind of held back on collecting them over the last decade or so. Discovering eBay in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was a big impetus in getting me to start collecting (trying to finish collecting) again, but the lack of space for storage–let alone putting them out on display in bookcases–inhibited me and I began to wonder about the advisability and the point of collecting children’s book series if I was simply going to put them in boxes and store them. It seemed kind of dumb, in all honesty, and so I stopped.

But the kids’ series had an enormous impact on me growing up and as a developing writer. I honestly think that The Haunted Showboat, number 35 in the Nancy Drew series, was my first actual encounter with New Orleans and Mardi Gras; it was either the fourth or fifth Nancy Drew mystery I had actually read (I started with The Secret of Red Gate Farm, The Mystery at Lilac Inn, and The Hidden Staircase; I think the next I read was The Haunted Showboat or Password to Larkspur Lane) and I do believe it was Nancy Drew who introduced me to New Orleans (outside of US History; I knew the Battle of New Orleans and the Louisiana Purchase and all of that, but this was my first non-historical introduction to the city).

I used to be able to list the books in order as well as give some background on the story; my memory isn’t quite as reliable on that score as it used to be. I joined some fan groups on Facebook, primarily to see if there were other alternatives than eBay and scouring second hand stores for the copies of the series books I am missing (and that’s a whole other story; there’s definitely a murder mystery novel that can be built around adult fans of kids’ series, seriously), and have been taken aback by the toxicity that can show up in these groups: hatred of anything new or daring or different to do with the characters (they have gone to TOWN on the new television series for both Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys–hating changes and updates with the fiery white hot passion of a dozen burning suns–and it inevitably comes down to ‘political correctness’ and ‘being woke’–despite knowing that all the earlier series books were revised in the 1950s thru the early 1970s to get rid of dated stereotypes and racism), but that is a subject for a different time (I’ve not watched Nancy Drew–literally forgot about it–but I’ve liked The Hardy Boys).

Anyway, as I am writing a new Scotty book, I decided to do some research into Nancy Drew and New Orleans–mainly deciding to reread both books that were set, at least in part, here.

So, I went on line (much easier than going through the boxes in storage–which is yet another example of how stupid it is for me to keep storing books) and ordered copies of both The Haunted Showboat and The Ghost of Blackwood Hall, which, according to a synopsis I read on a Nancy Drew website, had Nancy, Bess and George come to New Orleans–which I didn’t remember. I remembered that the book was about Mrs. Putney being swindled out of her jewelry, and it had something to do with spiritualism, which eventually led Nancy and her friends to the abandoned, haunted Blackwood Hall–but I did not remember them coming to New Orleans. This struck me as strange–I certainly vividly remembered other parts of the story, particularly a scene when Ned and Nancy stumbled into quicksand (which, according to everything I read and saw on television and/or movies as a child, I thought would be more of a danger to me at every point of my life).

Both books arrived on the same day, but since I do remember The Haunted Showboat more than I remembered anything New Orleans with The Ghost of Blackwood Hall, I decided to look through the latter and read the New Orleans section again.

Yeesh.

Despite my obsession with collecting and reading the entire series, as I mentioned earlier, Nancy Drew was never my favorite of the kids’ series; I liked The Three Investigators and Ken Holt most of all, and I always thought both Trixie Belden (the original six) and Judy Bolton were better written and more interesting than Nancy (Judy was also a goody two-shoes, but she was more rounded and developed, as were her friends), and looking through The Ghost of Blackwood Hall made me remember why she was never a favorite; the books aren’t very well written. (The original texts were much better than the revised ones, but it was a very low bar to hurdle, seriously.) And yet I had to have all the books and read them all; I watched the 70s television series with pre-Dynasty Pamela Sue Martin; and I still sort of have a soft spot for good ole Nancy; but man, these revised texts are simply terrible–and the later, newer books steadily declined in quality–I remember one where Nancy and her friends, being chased by a bad guy, duck into a room and–this is so stupid, it was even shown as an illustration–hide by sitting in chairs and holding up picture frames because of course the bad guy would look at them sitting still and believe they were a photograph or a painting.

Even as a kid, I knew that was fucking stupid.

Anyway, so Nancy is hired by a jeweler to help out his client Mrs. Putney–who clearly isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed–who is a widow and received a message from “beyond the grave” from her husband that she needed to bury her most valuable jewelry in the woods for safekeeping. (She’s also told to tell “no man or woman” about this; which is why the jeweler brings her to Nancy because she’s a “girl”–but the jeweler is a man…I guess in her mind he doesn’t count because he’s the one who spots that her jewelry is all fake, once she’s reconsidered her stupidity and dug the jewels back up.) There’s a lot of gullibility and superstition in this book, for the record, that doesn’t really make any logical sense. In a weird sequence of events, Nancy winds up with the name of a man from New Orleans who was an accomplished jewelry designer and “capable of making fakes that look real”–so she decides to follow the clue to New Orleans to look for information on the man. Because of course. Anyway, despite the fact that Mrs. Putney isn’t paying for this trip and in fact warns her not to go–Carson Drew, Nancy’s father, decides to foot the bill for her, Bess and George to fly down to New Orleans and follow this laughable clue that could only be a valuable one in a Nancy Drew mystery. (As I was reading this part again, I started thinking about how expensive this would be back then–the revised text was written in 1967, the original in the late 1940’s–and how amazing it was that all three eighteen year old girls had nothing else to do and could hop on a flight to New Orleans just like that; I am sure even back then it was more expensive to buy a ticket at the last minute.)

None of this mattered, of course, to young Greg when he was reading it the first time…and yes, I am being harsh about a kids’ series book which I am clearly too old for, but c’mon. And I knew when I was a kid that the books weren’t well written. (One thing that always annoyed me about this series and the Hardy Boys was they never really deduced anything or solved an actual mystery; really, the books were usually about catching a criminal whose identity was known almost from the start through a series of contrivances.)

But…

Once they are in New Orleans–after Bess tells a strange woman on their flight where they are staying in city: Nancy, seated in front of them, was sorry their hotel had been named. She had wanted to keep their visit to New Orleans as secret as possible. Um, you’re on a flight to New Orleans. So, since it’s too late to call on the suspect’s former boss, they go sight-seeing–but Nancy ducks into every jewelry and/or pawn shop they come upon.

The trip proved to be pleasurable, if not profitable. Their inquiries led them into many sections of New Orleans. The French Quarter, where the buildings were charming in their elegance of a bygone day, interested them most. Beautiful ironwork, delicately tinted plaster walls, old courtyards, once the center of fashionable Creole family life, fascinated the girls.

On a balcony, a brightly-colored parrot chattered at them in friendly fashion. A smiling woman, bearing a basket of flowers, stopped to sell a flower to each girl. On all sides, the visitors saw interesting characters, and heard the soft-spoken dialect which was a blend of French, Cajun, and Gumbo.

GUMBO IS NOT A LANGUAGE.

And since Cajun is a derivative of French…sigh. And by 1967 New Orleans wasn’t really bilingual anymore. It had begun to die out around the turn of the twentieth century, and it’s definitely a rarity here now to find anyone native who speaks both English and French, or speaks French as their first language.

The next day they visit their suspect’s former employer, who knows nothing, and then do some site-seeing before lunch “in a quaint restaurant.”

“New Orleans is wonderful!” Bess exclaimed. Counting on her fingers, she added, “We’ve seen the banana wharf, the market, the garden district, and that old cemetery where all the dead are buried in tombs above the ground.”

“That’s because this place is below sea level,” said George. “Say, do you suppose that guide that we believed the story about the tomb which is supposed to glow at night with an unearthly light?”

“He said spirits come out and weave back and forth like wisps of fog,” said Bess.

“That’s just what they are–fog,” George declared practically.

“Oh, I don’t for a minute believe in ghosts,” Bess replied quickly.

“I wish we had time to go to Grand Isle, the haunt of Lafitte and his men,” said Nancy.

“Who is he?” Bess asked.

“He was a famous pirate,” Nancy replied. “According to tradition, when burying treasure, he always murdered one of his band and left his ghost to guard the hidden loot!”

I guess Bess never studied about the Battle of New Orleans–and no one at either the Stratemeyer Syndicate or Grosset & Dunlap knew that you capitalize “Garden District.” Then comes a really weird section where the girls visit a spiritualist photographer on whose works sometimes “spirit writing” appears. Naturally, Nancy’s image has a warning to stop sleuthing, and then the lights go out and when they come back on, the photographer is unconscious, along with Nancy, are gone! This for me is a particularly weird section. Nancy is the point of view character, even if at a distance. Why would you then switch to Bess and George frantically searching for Nancy rather than showing her capture and abduction and eventual escape? WHY HAVE THE ACTION TAKE PLACE OFF THE PAGE?

Oh, and when Nancy regained consciousness, she was tied up and trapped in a basement near the Quarter.

A basement. Near the French Quarter. In New Orleans, which we’ve already learned is below sea level and therefore bodies can’t be buried in the ground. So of course we have basements.

But Nancy leads the cops back to the house, where all evidence of her being tied up and so forth have disappeared:

To their surprise the policeman remarked soberly, “This isn’t the first time queer things have happened in this section of the city.”

Ah, so it must be the Faubourg Marigny. Lots of queers lived there and in the lower Quarter back then. But I guess the girls should consider themselves lucky that they found an English-speaking cop–who would never say “this section of the city.” He’d name the neighborhood–“this isn’t the first time queer things have happened in the Marigny.” So anyway, the girls decide to go home, and fortunately, there’s a flight from New Orleans to River Heights within an hour. They pack and head for the airport just in time to catch their flight home–when Bess mentions something else mysterious that is going on that she knows about and just hasn’t mentioned before for some reason, and of course, as always, this side story subplot is connected to the main one.

And that’s where I stopped, since that was the end of Nancy’s adventures in New Orleans.

Sigh.

The Haunted Showboat, on the other hand, opens with an immediate eye-roller for New Orleanians:

“Would a trip to the Mardi Gras interest you, Nancy, and also a mystery to solve?” Bess Marvin asked.

Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday, so basically Bess just asked her if she would interested in a trip to “the Fat Tuesday.” Yes, I am well aware that outside of New Orleans it’s all lazily considered Mardi Gras, but it’s really Carnival. Mardi Gras is quite literally Fat Tuesday, the final day of Carnival, and while I’ve grudgingly come to accept that there’s no way that people will ever not refer to the entire event as “Mardi Gras”–even I have a tendency to get lazy and say”Mardi Gras” when I mean Carnival–it will never not bother me. Of course, Bess isn’t from Louisiana and she can be forgiven for getting this wrong, and even using “the” as unnecessary definitive article can be forgiven. But–and this is something that always annoyed me about both Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys–never is it mentioned in this book that Nancy and her friends have been to New Orleans before, and never was it mentioned on that previous trip in The Ghost of Blackwood Hall that Bess and George have New Orleans relatives.

Wouldn’t you think that would have come up in The Ghost of Blackwood Hall? Of course it didn’t, because when book 25 was written they had no idea that Book 35 would return Nancy and friends to New Orleans and Louisiana. (This kind of continuity thing used to drive me nuts; Nancy and the Hardys were ‘well known’ as amateur detectives, and every book opens with a reference to their first series book as well as the most recent, and closed with a teaser for the next, despite the fact that really, every mystery they solved was a stand alone with no connections to the past or the future. A couple of other continuity errors that always bugged me with Nancy is that Ned is mentioned as her boyfriend in the revised text of Number 5, The Secret at Shadow Ranch even though she meets him for the first time in Number 7, The Clue in the Diary; she finds her dog Togo as a stray at the opening of The Whispering Statue’s original text; but she already has Togo in the revised text of earlier volumes and yes, I am aware that I have spent way too much time in my life obsessing about Nancy Drew and continuity errors in the series–and there are a lot.)

Anyway.

If anything, The Haunted Showboat is actually worse than The Ghost of Blackwood Hall in so many ways, and not just in the aforementioned minor ways. First of all, the cousin of Bess and George’s, who invited them down, is named Donna Mae, because back in the day you could always make your audience know “hey this is set in the South” by giving a female character two first names–and always something Mae. (Ellie Mae Clampett is another example; for the record, out of dozen and dozens of southern women relatives there is exactly one whose name was “Something Mae”.) It takes a while for them to get to Louisiana–Nancy’s car is stolen once, and the replacement is sabotaged–because of course the criminals down in Louisiana will stop at nothing to keep this teenager from the midwest to interfere with their plans!–but there’s one part of their trip that is absolutely hilarious: they drive through Mobile on their way to New Orleans, but somehow get to the Mississippi River before they get to New Orleans or the plantation outside of town they are visiting:

Soon the girls reached the broad Mississippi and gazed at the peaceful, somewhat muddy river.

SOMEWHAT MUDDY?

Nancy then follows the River Road and turns inland. This geography makes literally no sense at all. But..it’s Nancy Drew, and the worst is yet to come.

You see, the Havers–who live at Sunnymead–have two black servants: Mammy Matilda and Pappy Cole. And oh yes, it’s just as racist and horrible as you can imagine–especially when you add in the “voodoo drums” they hear when canoeing through the swamp to get to the wrecked and haunted showboat, the River Princess. Anyway, yes, you can just imagine how dated and awful these depictions are. And everyone calls it “the Mardi Gras,” which no one does in the real world, either. The Quarter is referred to (correctly) as the “Vieux CarrĂ©”, but an aside says “or the old city”–it means “old square”, not old city–and of course they have lunch at Antoine’s.

There’s also an Uncle Rufus, who lives in the swamp in a tiny cabin and does voodoo spells.

There’s also a swamp episode and a wrecked, haunted showboat in an episode of Scooby Doo Where Are You?, which I’ve always wondered whether it was inspired (or stolen) from this edition.

So, neither book has aged particularly well–I’m still trying to wrap my mind around Gumbo as a language–and I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the racist depictions of Black characters in The Haunted Showboat, but the book is still in print and kids are still reading it. Everyone knows that the original texts of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series were updated in the 1950’s and through the 1960’s to get rid of problematic depictions of non-white characters; it might not be a bad idea for them to do it again now. No one should be reading The Haunted Showboat as it stands today, really.

But it was an interesting time travel to revisit the books again. At some point I’d love to talk about all the kids’ series I read when I was a child, but…time.

New Orleans

Twenty-eight years ago I came to New Orleans for my birthday weekend, and my life changed completely. Earlier that month I had already taken a cold, hard, long look at my life and I didn’t like what I saw. I had been wrapped in misery for years, wallowing in it, and diving so deep into the misery that I allowed it to erase my dreams and any hopes I had for the future. It was, after all, very easy to blame outside forces for my miserable life, and when you dig deep down into the misery, well, it’s a lot easier to just wrap yourself up in self-pity than take any responsibility for your own happiness; making excuses not to try rather than reasons to better myself. I worked for Continental Airlines at the Tampa airport–most times not a bad job for the most part, but the bad days were horrible–and didn’t make much money. I was broke all the time and yes, I wasted a lot of money treating myself to things–like buying lots and lots of books every payday–in an effort to make me feel better about myself and my miserable life. I was horribly lonely.

A bad experience with someone I was romantically interested in was the impetus for the changes I made to my life, because for whatever reason that night everything just bubbled up to the surface; I hated everything about my life, I hated where I was at, I felt trapped and like nothing good was ever going to happen to me. I stayed up the entire night, feeling sorry for myself and unable to sleep, tossing and turning and occasionally crying. At seven o’clock the next morning (it was a day off) I went into my bathroom and took a long, hard look at myself in the mirror. I never want to feel this way ever again, I thought as I looked at red swollen eyes, the unshaved face. the dark purplish circles under my eyes. I then repeated it out loud. I went back to my desk, sat down and opened my latest journal and wrote the words: I hate my life. I stared at the words for a few moments, and then added, I have no one to blame for this but myself. I am the only person who can change things for me. I want to be a writer. I want to be published, and I don’t want to work for Continental for the rest of my life in this job that makes me miserable. I am lonely and it’s probably too late for me to find a life partner. But I have to stop being afraid of everything, and I can’t go the rest of my life NOT living because I am afraid of dying. Other men are not attracted to me because I am overweight–no one ever looks at me twice when I go to bars. I cannot change my face but I can change my body. I will eat healthy. I will drop some of this extra weight. I will do crunches and push-ups every day from now on, and if by January I have been consistent with the workouts and the diet, I will join a gym. I need to start figuring out who I am and how to get what I want because no one is going to knock on my door and just give it to me. The only person who can change the things in my life is me, and I am going to work on being the best possible me that I can. And that means taking the steps necessary to change who I am and what my life is so I can become a writer.

Three weeks later, my birthday weekend rolled around and I flew to New Orleans with a friend for the weekend. We were staying with his on-again off-again boyfriend–who turned out to be one of the nicest gay men I’ve ever known. I really liked him. thought he was a good person–but once they broke up for good that was the end of that; I guess he associated me with his ex and so couldn’t be bothered anymore (or he did a great job of acting the part of the generous host; I am not sure how the invitation to stay with him came about; all I knew was we were going to New Orleans for my birthday and staying with this guy), which was always a shame. I was always grateful to him–have been for twenty-eight years–because coming to New Orleans that weekend was yet another key piece to the puzzle of Greg’s future, a piece I didn’t even now I needed.

I think at that point I may have lost five pounds or so. My friend was gorgeous; one of those perfect gay men with golden skin and very little–if any–body fat; his boyfriend was his counterpart, only with much bigger muscles, bluish-black hair, and that gorgeous gorgeous olive toned skin darker Italians have. They looked beautiful together, too, and I was in some sense a third wheel that weekend, but it was okay with me. They were totally into each other which left me with time on my own to think and reflect. He picked us up at the airport and took us to his apartment (which was in a complex on Sophie Wright Place that Paul and I eventually moved into when we returned from DC in August 2001), we showered and cleaned up, and headed to the Quarter.

I had been to New Orleans before that particular trip, and while I had always felt drawn in some ways to this city since I was a child, I’d never before felt the sense of belonging I felt that weekend. When we stepped out of the cab that night at the corner of Bourbon and St. Ann, I felt this enormous emotional release, as though tension I didn’t know I. had in my shoulders and brain were suddenly gone and a big burden had been lifted from my shoulders. It was as though my soul was saying at last you’ve come home, and I knew then, before we paid the cover charge to go into the bars there at the corner–Oz and the Pub/Parade–that I was going to someday live in New Orleans…and all of my dreams would come true once I did.

I have never been sure what was different about that trip than previous ones. On my brief, previouos visits to the city before, I’d never gotten a real sense of the city before–we stayed in motels by the airport or on the West Bank–and so it wasn’t really possible to get a sense of New Orleans. Waking up in the spare bedroom in the morning, walking out onto the balcony and looking around at the roofs and unique architecture of the lower Garden District, I felt like I was at home. It was also the first time I’d ever come to New Orleans to hang out with other gay people and in the gay section of the Quarter, and maybe that was the difference? I don’t know for certain, but I do know that was the magical trip when everything coalesced in my head on that trip here. I knew New Orleans was my home, and I needed to live there, and my dreams would finally all come true once I’d moved there.

My friend’s boyfriend was a great host. He made sure to take me to see Anne Rice’s home at First and Chestnut (which was also the home of the Mayfair witches in The Witching Hour, a book I’d loved that had only heightened my sense of need to come to New Orleans), and showed me (us) around the entire weekend; we went to Lafayette Cemetery in the Garden District, ate amazing food, and then at night we’d head down to the Quarter to the bars and danced the night away.

That was also the weekend I did Ecstasy for the first time, but that’s a story for a different time.

The entire weekend was a whirl; I have pictures somewhere (or lost many years ago during the course of a move or something) of all the places we went and things we did; the amazing food, dancing all night and going to the Clover Grill in the morning (or La Peniche, over in the Marigny) and then sleeping before going roaming again throughout the city. I fell for New Orleans hard that weekend, and have never really fallen out of love for the city, really, since. We broke up once (that dreadful year Paul and I spent in DC), but we came back and New Orleans forgave us for our desertion and welcomed us back home.

I don’t remember how old I was when I first heard about New Orleans, but I do remember Nancy Drew came to Carnival (called “the Mardi Gras” in the book, eye roll to infinity) in The Haunted Showboat (she also visited briefly during The Ghost of Blackwood Hall), but I don’t really remember much else. I think everyone in the country has a sense of Carnival/Mardi Gras, and always associates that with New Orleans–but New Orleans, obviously, is so much more than that. I was a kid when I watched the James Bond movie Live and Let Die–which whetted my interest in New Orleans and Louisiana–later movies like The Big Easy and Angel Heart and Tightrope expanded that interest, as did Anne Rice’s novels and the Skip Langdon series by Julie Smith. Whenever I had been to New Orleans previously I hadn’t felt anything but a sense that the city was different than everywhere else, and that difference felt alien to me.

But that entire weekend was different. That weekend in the city changed me and changed my life. I’d never felt like I’d belonged anywhere before–I always had felt out of place wherever I lived; part of it was being gay, part of it was being a creative, and the rest had everything to do with being raised by Southern parents with a Southern mentality but not living in the South (not a complaint, I am very grateful to have not been raised down here)–so New Orleans felt special to me; I’d finally found my place or, to quote Pippin, I’d finally found my corner of the sky.

Within a year I’d met the love of my life–who also was in love with New Orleans and wanted to live there–and on August 1, 1996, I drove the U-haul truck with all of our stuff and towing my old car into the city to start the rest of my life. I had already started dipping into the waters of writing–I got a gig with a gay paper in Minneapolis that actually paid me, and had started writing the book that would eventually become Murder in the Rue Dauphine. Within three years of moving to New Orleans I had a book contract and had sold my first ever short stories. Twenty-eight years to the day of that most important visit to New Orleans, and look at me now.

I live in the city I love with the man I love doing the work I love. I’m glad that I didn’t know at the time how important that weekend was going to prove to be; that it was, indeed, really the first day of the rest of my real life, when I finally stopped just enduring my life and actively started living it. It’s not always been easy to live here and love the city; New Orleans can be a hard place a lot of the time. We’ve endured hurricanes and floods, disease and injury, poverty and horror. But even the bad things are made bearable because we live in New Orleans.

I’ve written millions of words about New Orleans. One of the best compliments I can receive is being told that I’ve depicted the city so vividly and lovingly that it’s a character. I do laugh when people call me a “New Orleans expert”–I am anything but an expert; you could fill the Great Library of Alexandria with what I don’t know about New Orleans; every day I discover something new about this wondrous and bizarre place, the only place on earth I’ve ever felt at home. I will never run out of material to write about this magical city, and every day, more ideas and thoughts for stories and characters and essays about New Orleans comes to me.

So, my favorite part of my birthday is the fact that it is also the anniversary of me finding, at long last, where I belong.

And thank you, New Orleans, for always, no matter what, being New Orleans.

I’ve always rather blasphemously called this statue “Drag Queen Jesus”, for reasons that should be fairly apparent.

No Matter What Sign You Are

Happy Mardi Gras! Everywhere else it’s just Tuesday.

It’s a beautiful day and I feel rested this morning. Granted, I’ve felt rested every morning for the last six or seven days upon arising only to run out of proverbial steam and become exhausted by the late afternoon–yesterday was another one of those; once I ran my errands and did my work I was burned out and worn out by five pm; there was no Orpheus for us last night–so we’ll see how things go today. Ukraine still seems to be standing this morning, which has been on my mind non-stop these last few days since the invasion started, and I really need to block that out. I’ve been thinking a lot these last few days about the other places in the world being visited by the horrors of war and oppression (the Uyghurs in China, Yemen) and how those stories aren’t (or weren’t) being covered with the same kind of blanket 24/7 reporting. That saddens me, as it does send the signal that Americans don’t care about Uyghurs or Yemenis, but do care about white Ukrainians.

Even when it comes to foreign policy, we can’t escape racism, can we?

Today is a day off, obviously and I am going to take full advantage of that. I am going to try to finish writing that story this morning–it’s been a struggle–and I am going to be productive and effective today; which means closing social media completely and only checking in periodically when I take a break from working. The house is a mess, filing needs to be done, and I am going to use today as an organizing/writing/get caught up day. I am going to not bother with emails this day because that is exhausting and I don’t want to get off track. I don’t hear either Zulu or Rex down at the corner–I’ll probably wander down there at some point–probably when I am barbecuing lunch–to get an idea of crowds and so forth.

Paul and I watched Toy Boy last night after he got home from work–I was actually half-dozing in my easy chair when he got home–and we have only two episodes left. It’s very strange and different this season from the last; there’s a new villain (and he is sexy as fuck) and the restructuring of the corrupt wealthy people who run the city in order to deal with this new threat has been interesting. Lots of sex and nudity, lots of male strippers in bikinis, but some also seriously strange side subplots that indicate that the producers and writers may not have a real idea of what they are doing. The gay couple from season one is hardly in this at all, and their relationship doesn’t make any sense this season at all; them meeting and falling in love while dealing with rejection and mental illness and disability was quite powerful in season one; this season they aren’t doing much of anything and are hardly in the show at all, which is disappointing.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and while I am always sad to see Carnival end, this year was a bit bittersweet. I only went out to King Arthur to see friends; we went to Muses to get Paul’s shoe (mission accomplished) and I went to Iris on Saturday; a significant difference from our usual “out there every night” type parade season. But I never felt entirely comfortable out there in the crowds–it’s going to take a while before I stop thinking everyone is contagious–and of course, this year was a more difficult one for Paul with his events at the end of this new month; people having to cancel because of nervousness about traveling, etc. I always look forward every year for the festivals to be over–I worry about Paul’s long hours and stress levels–but I think this year more than any other year I really want to get to April intact. I tested myself for COVID this morning and I am not infected; I will test myself again tomorrow before I go into the office just to be certain, and probably will again this coming weekend. I always wear masks in public anyway, so even if I am contagious the odds of giving it to anyone else are decreased; and I wash my hands (or use hand sanitizer) a lot. But I will be really glad and happy once the threat has finally passed, you know? I don’t know if this is how we are going to be living from now on, or if work is going to continue to change or evolve or go back to what it was before the pandemic (which I rather doubt); everything is still uncertain, and uncertainty isn’t something humans–especially this one–cope with very well.

And on that note, I am going to get cleaned up and get to work. Happy Mardi Gras, everyone!

The Rhythm of Life

It’s raining on Bacchus Sunday. I’ve not checked whether parades are being delayed or canceled or postponed–who knows? I’ve also not checked the weather forecast for the rest of the day. I literally got out of bed about half an hour ago, made a cup of coffee, and then went Internet searching to see if Ukraine was still holding onto their independence and sovereignty. (They are, thank the heavens.) I need to walk over to Walgreens in a moment–I am debating having another cup of coffee before going out into the chilly drizzle conditions out there–and then I probably won’t go back outside today. Paul and I have never really been much of the Sunday parade crowd; if anything, if the weather was nice we might go out for Bacchus. In the olden days, when we were younger and more apt to go partying every weekend, we’d walk up the parade route to the Quarter for Sunday tea dance, which inevitably turned into staying out much later than we’d planned and hangovers on Mondays–which was okay, because all I had to do work-wise on Mondays was go down to the Quarter and pass out condoms for four hours and walk home for Orpheus.

Funny how things change.

I have lots to do today–my priority is working on that short story, of course–and I need to make the to-do list I’ve been meaning to make for quite some time now. I’ll have to make an errand run at some point during the day tomorrow–mail and grocery store are definite musts; anything else can wait until Friday–and I’ve need to start making progress on the things on that to-do list. I also keep forgetting that the rest of the world isn’t experiencing Carnival; Lundi and Mardi Gras mean nothing to the rest of the world, who will be going about their usual Mondays and Tuesdays and everyone will be wondering why I am not answering emails or responding and…every year. Of course, Carnival was canceled last year which felt very weird–I think my lack of feeling connected to New Orleans has everything to do with the imposed isolation of the pandemic along with the lack of a Carnival in 2021; I didn’t get my annual reminder of how wonderful and fun and magical it is when the city all comes together every year for it.

Okay, so I walked over to the Walgreens and as such no longer have any need nor desire to leave the house for the rest of the day and I do think that is very wise on my part. It’s not raining now but it’s gray and the air is wet and heavy and chilly; there’s standing water and mud on the neutral ground and the wind is cold and damp. The sun may come out, but the damp chill in the air means more rain at some point in additio to the ground not drying out. There are a lot of people outside already–I’ve always been grateful to live in close proximity to the parade route so I never have to spend hours out there waiting (we call it “passin’ time” here) for the first floats to arrive–and the first parade won’t be here for hours yet. I do admire their persistence, determination, and commitment; but just standing out there for the parades wears me out, and having a place to sit wouldn’t make that much of a difference.

And now, I think I am going to go sit in my easy chair and read my what’s in my “to edit” file before getting cleaned up and getting to work on writing some things. Have a happy and safe Bacchus Sunday, y’all, and see you tomorrow on Lundi Gras.

The Way You Do The Things You Do

You got a smile so bright, you know you should have been a candle.

So, the first weekend of parades are over, and we are in that breathing space where you try to catch your breath and brace yourself for the marathon to come. While it does make me feel a bit like a Mardi Gras Grinch (or grunch, as the local urban legend may hold), I didn’t go out and watch any parades this weekend other than King Arthur briefly yesterday–in order to see some friends riding in it–and I started to get into the swing of things after being out there for maybe about fifteen minutes. My friends gave me wonderful throws (I got a Grail!), and the crowds were about the usual for the first weekend; the weather was nice but a bit crisp, and everyone was having a lovely time. At some point I dropped my phone out of my pocket, freaked out when I got back to the Lost Apartment and realized it was gone–but then remembered the “Find My Phone” app on my computer, located it, and went back out….where some nice women noticed me looking around and asked me if I had lost my phone. When I affirmed I had, they directed me to the nice woman who’d found it and was holding on to it in case someone came looking for it. It was an enormous relief–I was in the stages of grief and panic–and also served as a lovely reminder that the majority of people actually do default to kindness and being helpful; something I’ve grown rather more cynical about since the start of the pandemic (and let’s face it, before the pandemic I didn’t think I could grow more cynical about humanity). It also reminded me that Carnival is a celebration of community–it brings everyone together in a celebration of life and joy and also reminds us that we need to always celebrate and find joy in life because who knows what tomorrow will bring?

It’s nice to be reminded of what the entire point of Carnival is, and to be reminded that I live here in New Orleans because we have a stronger sense of community than anywhere I’ve ever lived before.

There are two extremely hot young men in Terminix uniforms wandering around outside the house today; I’m not sure why they are here–Terminix generally doesn’t mean good news, and it doesn’t look like this is our monthly vermin/bugs spraying visit–but their attention appears to be focused on the carriage house. Better, but still not optimal. Hopefully, this doesn’t mean a termite infestation over there, as it is very close to the main house….sigh.

Another reminder of why I never want to own property in New Orleans.

Today I am working at home and hope to make it to the gym today after work. I also need to check out our food situation and make plans to visit the grocery store at some point–since it won’t be possible any time other than this Friday and next Monday before three in the afternoon. I could conceivably go after work tomorrow on my way home, but it’s always nightmarish at that time and I try to avoid that as per usual, and with the parade situation everyone is going to be trying to make groceries around the times they can and so maybe–maybe–if we have enough to last us until Friday morning I can get up early and get the errands finished so I can get the car home early enough to find decent parking on my block. Carnival can be challenging, but there’s no escaping it or defeating it…there is only resigned acceptance. And I did have fun out on the parade route for that brief window of time I was out there. I don’t think I’ll do Wednesday night parades this week–I am boycotting Nyx, for one thing–but definitely will go out for Muses on Thursday night, do Friday’s three, and Iris on Saturday. By Bacchus Sunday it will be insane out at the corner–Thoth is major–and of course Orpheus is always fun on Monday; we’ll probably just hide out inside on Fat Tuesday.

I didn’t get nearly as much done this weekend as I would have liked, frankly. I did get some cleaning and organizing done, worked briefly on a short story that’s due in a week (it has a long way to go before it’s finished; I may not get it done at all, which is sad. But it’s also not a guaranteed publication–although the pay is significant–so that also makes it a bit harder as to whether or not I will find the focus to get it done. It’s a good story, I think, and a bit on the macabre side (all of my stories tend to be on the macabre side, really); it’s a matter of whether I can make it work or not. I think I can (I always think I can) but one never knows. I also spent some time thinking about my next two books to write, Chlorine and Mississippi River Mischief, which was also kind of fun to do–that’s the most fun part of writing, the thinking and planning and “what if” part–and since i am working at home today, I will be trying to get the house back under control around my work. We also watched two more episodes of Reacher last night–the show is really good, y’all, I can’t encourage you enough to watch–and I’m going to be very sorry to see the season end. There are some other shows lined up for us to watch–second seasons of shows we greatly enjoyed in their first season, like Dark Desire and Boy Toy–and there are some others out that look really good. Poor Paul is in the height of Festival madness, of course, so probably won’t get much time with him until after the Festivals are over…which means I should have my evenings free to read, relax, and write.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Monday, Constant Reader, and I will check in with you before dawn (sob) 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.