The Best Day

And just like that, it’s Thursday again. Wow, where did this week go? It seems as though time is taking an eternity to pass–pre-pandemic times now seem as far back in the past as the Bronze Age–and yet here were are, at the Ides of October. Time keeps on slipping into the future…

I have to proof one of my stories this week; as Constant Reader may (or may not) remember, I sold “Night Follows Night” to an anthology of queer horror called Buried, being edited by Rebecca Rowland, and the galleys to proof dropped into my inbox this week. “Night Follows Night” is the story that begin its life as “This Thing of Darkness” and then was changed to “And The Walls Came Tumbling Down” before I finally settled on “Night Follows Night,” which may be the name of an old noir movie? Let me check the Google…hmmm, nothing coming up. I think I ran across it sometime when researching something–maybe it’s an old Cornell Woolrich title?–and thought, that actually fits my story better than “And The Walls Came Tumbling Down”, and so I changed it. (But “And The Walls Came Tumbling Down” is a great title, and I am going to use it for another story at some point, I am sure.) Anyway, I am quite pleased with how the story turned out, and I also like the cover art for the anthology quite a bit. I’ll share it when I can, and of course will be happy to provide purchase information and so forth when it’s available.

And the story is one of the best examples of how something completely mundane can inspire a story: this story was born when I went to make groceries in a particularly bad mood one morning and wound up with a shopping cart that wobbled because of a loose, squeaky front wheel. I tried a second; same thing. The third cart was also in the same condition, so I sighed and gave up, thinking as I pushed the cart into the store (Tchoupitoulas Rouse’s, in case you were wondering) and thought to myself, why do I always get the cart with the wobbling squeaky wheel as I went to the cantaloupes, picked one up, and thumped it…and then thought, do I really know what I am listening for when I thump a melon and then the story started forming in my head…and miracle of miracles, I still remembered it when I got home from the store, and scribbled down notes before putting away the groceries…and once the groceries were safely stored, I sat down at the computer and started writing. I think I submitted it somewhere it got rejected from; but nevertheless, I am very pleased that it’s finally found a home.

The LSU-Florida game this weekend has been postponed, possibly to December, because of a coronavirus outbreak on the Gators team. (Nick Saban and the athletic director at Alabama also both have tested positive this week; maybe having even a shortened season wasn’t the best idea?) Obviously, I am disappointed–even if they lose, I look forward to seeing LSU play every Saturday–but let’s face it; this football season is abnormal and weird and should have been skipped entirely. Whoever winds up winning the National Championship is going to have an asterisk next to their name, since it was a shortened, non-normal season to begin with, whether it’s college or pro; so while I understand the need to make bank for both…it really is amazing what a difference a lack of crowd noise makes when watching a game on television. Part of the fun of home games at LSU is the roars of the crowd in the background; listening to them spell out T-I-G-E-R-S after a touchdown, etc. etc. etc. The Saints games in the Dome with no crowd are equally strange and uninvolving. Who would have ever guessed?

Certainly not me–the guy who hates laugh tracks on comedy shows.

I started writing something new this week–yes, not something I am supposed to be revising, or finishing, or anything like that, you know, like I am supposed to be doing and I don’t know if I am going to be able to finish a first draft. It’s called “Parlor Tricks,” and it’s a short story that opens at a tedious dinner party in the Garden District–a trope I’ve used before, most notably in “An Arrow for Sebastian”–and one of the guests is a celebrity medium (Easter egg alert: the same woman who told Scotty’s parents he had the gift when he was a child) who, after dinner, conducts a seance, and it’s from the point of view of a non-believing young woman. I’m not really sure where the story is going to go–having her become convinced the medium has powers would be too cliched and has been done many times–but there’s a small kernel of an idea germinating there that I can’t quite force out into the open somehow; this, you see, is precisely why I have so many unfinished stories in the files.

Scooter continues to be much better, now that he’s getting insulin twice a day; but I still continue to be concerned that he isn’t eating enough. He is permitted to have a can and a quarter of this special diet wet food, but he won’t eat it if it’s been sitting out for a while, and he also wants a fresh spoonful whenever he gets hungry. He’s always been weird about eating–he’ll eat whatever is in the center of the bowl and then act like it’s empty once he can see the bottom, despite their being a ring of food around the empty space–and this is carrying over to the wet food, with the end result that we are wasting about a half-can of it every day. He’s going back to the vet for a follow-up visit this weekend; I am hoping we can dispense with the insulin shots, frankly.

I am working from home today and tomorrow; this was my first week of three days in clinic, and I wasn’t nearly as tired last night as I thought I might be, but I was definitely getting sleepy around ten–which is when I’ve been going to bed. I woke up at six again this morning, but stayed in bed for another hour or so, but feel very well rested this morning as I drink my coffee and keep adding another spoonful of wet food in Scooter’s bowl once he can see the bottom again. We started watching The Haunting of Bly House last night, but Paul didn’t really care much for it (he didn’t like The Haunting of Hill House either; I wound up watching it on my own) so that’s probably what I’ll watch this week while making condom packs, and we’ll have to find something else to watch in the evenings. There’s only a few films left in the Cynical 70’s Film Festival any way; and this month is supposed to be my month to watch (or rewatch) horror films anyway–and since their true American heyday began in the 1970’s…they are kind of an off-shoot of the Cynical 70’s Film Festival anyway.

I also remembered that usually every October is when I reread The Haunting of Hill House, and I got down my worn and much-read copy last night after I got home from work. Christ, that opening is such genius! I also think it’s smart to read a haunted house story again while I am writing a ghost story, and perhaps maybe rereading some of my favorite Barbara Michaels ghost stories might be in order. It is the season, after all, and it couldn’t hurt to read some more of Nathan Ballingrud’s North American Lake Monsters: Stories, either. (I’ve not done my annual reread of Rebecca in quite some time, either. I guess I can’t call it the ‘annual reread’ if I am not rereading it annually, can I?)

One thing I was doing between clients yesterday was looking fora classic book opening to parody for the next two Scotty books–yes, I have two in mind; French Quarter Flambeaux and Quarter Quarantine Quadrille–and as you may know if you’ve read the series and paid attention, each book opens with a parody of a famous novel’s famous opening (amongst those I’ve parodied thus far include Rebecca, The Haunting of Hill House, A Tale of Two Cities, and Anna Karenina) and I’ve picked out An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser for the former and I think I found one for the latter; but right now I cannot remember what it was. For you Scotty fans, the story for French Quarter Flambeaux is already starting to take form in my mind; it has to do with a closeted Jefferson Parish elected official, the collapse of a hotel on Canal Street, Carnival, and of course the conclusion to the spy intrigue began in Royal Street Reveillon; the second book will be the recycling of a Scotty plot that was originally planned to be the fourth book in the series–and yes, there’s possibly even a third brewing in my mind. I’m not entirely certain I should keep writing the Scotty books, to be honest; I love the characters and I greatly enjoy writing them, but at the same time writing a Scotty book always seems like a safe choice for me; so I need to, if I keep writing them, make them complicated and take chances with them and push myself creatively. 2020 has been a rough year for everyone, and it’s definitely, I feel, taken a toll on my creativity. I guess we shall see, shall we not?

And on that note, tis time for me to head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader.

Hello

Sunday morning, and despite all the things I have to do today–there’s no Saints game, and all the things I’ve been brushing off all week have to be done today–I am still aglow from an insane day of college football yesterday.

First off, how insane was the Iron Bowl? The Auburn-Alabama game is always special (except for those years when Auburn is terrible and they get blown out) but yesterday’s was one for the ages. Strange things often happen in the Iron Bowl (“Punt Bama Punt” for one, the “Kick Six” for another) but I couldn’t believe the insanity of what I was watching yesterday. A kick-off return for a touchdown? Two pick sixes? A game-saving field goal that bounces off the upright and is no-good? A too many men on the field penalty that gives Auburn a first down and wins the game for them? Fucking insanity. And now Alabama is 10-2–their worst regular season since 2010. And the two games they lost were by a combined total of eight points. Interesting that with two losses–one to LSU, ranked first or second, depending on where you look for the rankings; the other to a Top 15 Auburn–whose only losses were to LSU, #4 Georgia, and top 15 Florida–people are already wondering if the Alabama dynasty is over.

If you’re thinking that, you don’t know Nick Saban, and you really haven’t been paying attention.

But LSU. Wow, LSU. What a dream ride of a season this has been; trouncing Texas A&M 50-7 and basically making them look like a lower division team on a Saturday night in Death Valley. 12-0, an undefeated regular season for the first time since 2011, and a thrilling season with incredibly exciting wins over Florida (still can’t believe I was at that game!), Auburn, Texas, Alabama, and now A&M. Watching this team play has been a pleasure and a joy all season. I’ve been writing an entry about this season since the Alabama game, detailing the growing love affair between the state of Louisiana and quarterback Joe Burrow; I didn’t post it that Sunday morning and have been adding to it ever since, thinking, Oh, I’ll post this if we go undefeated and then last night, well, maybe I should wait until after the SEC title game. Who knows when or if I’ll ever post it; but I do appreciate Joe Burrow so much that I definitely want to document this insanely fun season here. The story of this season’s LSU football team has been a great one; the transfer quarterback, the coach no one wanted, the running back who was too short, the receiver who was too skinny and only a two-star recruit.  As time ran out last night, I couldn’t help but think, next year Joe’s name and number is going to be mounted on the stadium with Tommy Casanova’s and Billy Cannon’s.

So. Much. Fun.

I still can’t completely wrap my mind around it.

But I have to shake off this oh my god LSU is undefeated afterglow and get my head back into the game. It’s back to the office with me tomorrow, and back to work. This vacation has been enormously pleasurable, I feel completely rested and relaxed, my mind unwound and in a good place; now I need to get moving on everything and stay focused. I still have some things I need to figure out, and I need to stay motivated. This vacation seemed to work better than the last–the last I was ill and trying to recover from being ill; so it wasn’t quite the same rest-and-recovery thing; but if I hadn’t been ill I would have gone to Bouchercon and that wouldn’t have been restful either; fun, but not relaxing. I am in a good place after this week off, mentally and emotionally, and so I think that this December (I can’t believe it’s already December, for fuck’s sake) will be highly productive and fun. The Christmas and New Year’s holidays are falling in the middle of the week this year, so that will create both peculiar and unsettling work weeks around them, and then suddenly it’s 12th Night and Carnival, with Mardi Gras just around the corner. Yikes, indeed!

I’d much rather lay around all day, frankly, and do nothing one last time, but I don’t think that would be a particularly wise move, honestly.

All right, enough of this and back to the spice mines. Happy December 1st, everyone!

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Funkytown

And we’ve made it to Wednesday. It’s also Pay-the-Bills Day, and I have errands to run this morning before I head into the office. I hate Pay-the-Bills Day, seriously; it’s the worst part of being an adult, I think. I’m self-absorbed enough to think my paycheck should be mine to do with as I please, rather than simply utilized to pay the bills. Heavy heaving sigh. But I do get an enormous sense of satisfaction–primarily because of completion–from paying the bills. It’s lovely to check them off as they are paid, make a new list of how much is owed, etc etc etc. It’s a little shocking how much money I actually do owe–particularly since I hate nothing more than I do owing money–but it’s also nice to see the numbers go down–if not as quickly as I would like them to.

It’s cold in the Lost Apartment and New Orleans this morning; so much so that I’ve got a hat on my head and the space heater going. I slept beautifully again last night–it’s so lovely to be getting used to sleeping well consistently and nightly–and it’s amazing to feel rested every day, rather than tired and cranky. It really does make a difference, a significant one, and I’m glad to be feeling more myself these days. I still haven’t gotten any writing done this week yet–it really is disgraceful, frankly–but we were busy at work yesterday, and my actual day job does, sometimes, drain me emotionally. It did yesterday, but I also provided good counseling services to people who desperately needed a friendly, non-judgmental person to listen, advise, and console. It is a rewarding job–which is why I have it and why I have lasted so long there. I do love helping my clients.

I also had gotten my email inbox under some sort of control yesterday, but I woke up to a ridiculous amount in there again this morning. It may not all need to be answered, but it all needs to be read. Sigh–that’ll teach me to  keep being a volunteer.

Today is a half-day at the office as well as being a cold day in New Orleans. Paul will be home later tonight; hopefully we can get caught up on Catherine the Great and American Horror Story: 1984 also airs its season finale this evening. I hope to get the writing done before Paul gets home; I really need to sink my teeth back into the manuscript. It also occurred to me last night that part of the reason the manuscript doesn’t feel quite right is that I may not have the best grasp of my character, and so today, between clients, I am going to start constructing his bio and figuring out who he is, so I can make him seem real. I was trying to make it more of a distant first person point of view, which can be quite effective (see everything written by Lori Roy), but it’s not working for me and so it needs to be overhauled, as does the Kansas book. But week after next is Thanksgiving, I will have the week off, and I am going to do some serious work that week–I know, I know, I always say that, and then it never happens–but I am going to focus on getting this shit together over the course of that week. I’d still like to have Bury Me in Shadows in better condition so I can get it turned in and be done with it once and for all.

And while I am yes, indeed, still walking in the clouds from the LSU win over Alabama this past weekend, I have to say I am a little surprised at how sportswriters and sportscasters have essentially buried the Alabama program and erected a headstone on the grave as a result of the loss. Um, they’re Alabama, and if you think Nick Saban is finished, think again. Alabama was beaten pretty badly by Clemson in last year’s championship game–this is certainly true–but no one wrote Alabama off as dead after that game, and I am not certain why the loss to LSU has had this effect on people. Maybe it was the twenty point deficit going into half-time? I mean, sure, it was the most points scored in the history of the series, it was the most points scored on a Nick Saban team since he went to Alabama, it’s the most points scored on them since a 2003 quadruple overtime loss to Tennessee, and all the rest of that. I guess maybe it’s the combination of last year’s Clemson loss and this year’s LSU loss? I don’t know, but it’s strange, and it’s certainly bulletin board material for the Tide for the rest of this year and for next season, to be sure. Don’t be surprised if the Tide come roaring back–you heard it here first. ANd LSU has to be ready for Ole Miss Saturday; they’d love nothing more than to spoil this amazing, magical season for the Tigers–kind of like we did to them in 2014.

I have to run some errands this morning before I go into the office, so I’d better start getting motivated to get out there into the cold–which I really don’t want to do, but have no choice. So, it’s off to the spice mines with me–have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and stay warm!

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Break Out

I am trying not to get too stressed out about the LSU-Alabama game today; it is what it is, after all, and my getting worked up or stressed out about it isn’t going to change anything about the game. I am constantly amazed at how worked up I can get over football games; it really accomplishes nothing and whether LSU wins or loses has no real impact on my day-to-day life; I try, from time to time, to understand why I get so emotionally invested in being a football fan; there’s perhaps a decent essay in there somewhere for my collection of essays that I hope to pull together someday. I know that the essay about my fandom of LSU–and Southeastern Conference football in general–will be called “It’s Saturday Night in Death Valley,” and I’ve already sketched out some ideas for it. The phenomenon of games in the stadium–that wild crowd psychology thing–is also fascinating to me; I still get chills when I fondly remember how amazingly fun the LSU-Florida game was a few weeks ago in Tiger Stadium.

I still get chills thinking about it.

But to be the best, you have to beat Alabama–which is the truth of college football since around 2008. You have to, even if you don’t like them, admire what Alabama has done under the guidance of Nick Saban in the last past twelve seasons. Their worst season was a three-loss season in 2010; I don’t think they’ve lost more than one game in a season since then; but I could be wrong. Only LSU and Ole Miss have beaten Alabama in consecutive years under Nick Saban; and after those two back-to-back wins, LSU has lost to Alabama eight straight times. Obviously, I am rooting for LSU to win, and will be disappointed should they lose; but there have been seasons before (last year, 2015, 2012) when it looked like we had a shot at taking them down only to lose.

I am being interviewed for a radio show later this morning; I am dropping Paul off for an appointment afterward and then going to pick up the mail. In the meantime I am going to try to get the kitchen cleaned up and maybe do some writing; at least get the files open. I love to write, but it’s also amazing to me how when I get out of the habit of doing it every day how easy it is to keep not writing, even though I enjoy writing and always feel an enormous sense of accomplishment and pride when I’ve finished writing for the day. I also want to finish reading The Ferguson Affair this weekend, which shouldn’t be too terribly difficult; Ross Macdonald is always a quick, easy read, and I am curious to see how this case–which is not an Archer–turns out. One of the reasons I enjoy reading Ross Macdonald is because he is such a terrific writer, one, and two, because the cases are always so intriguing and I am never really sure where they are going. They are also impressive time capsules for the period. After I finish the Macdonald, I think I’m going to give Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys  a whirl; it seems to be based on the same case/incident that Lory Roy’s brilliant The Disappearing was built around, and it’s also a case that has interested me enough to consider writing about it.

We’re almost finished with season two of Netflix’ It’s the End of the Fucking World, which is quite as interesting, strange, and thought-provoking as the first season. I had wondered how they were going to do a second season but I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined the insanity that this second season would fully embrace. I have to  hand it to the show. Very creative.

I can hardly wait for the next episode of Watchmen, either.

All right, I suppose I’d best get back to work this morning. I have limited time–since I have the interview this morning and then errands to run from there before the game–so I had best make use of the time wisely, rather than just sitting here and scrolling through social media.

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and GEAUX TIGERS.

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Slow Motion

GEAUX TIGERS!

ESPN’s College Gameday is in Baton Rouge this morning, and tonight Number One Alabama takes on Number Three LSU in Death Valley, aka Tiger Stadium.

This season has already exceeded all expectations for us Tiger fans; I think the best pre-season predictions had us finishing at maybe 7-5, and finishing no higher than fourth or fifth in the SEC West. Tonight, with only one loss, we take on the Alabama juggernaut which has been almost awe-inspiring to watch play all season. There are few teams, in all my years of watching college football, that have been so dominant as Alabama; no one has even gotten remotely close to beating the Tide this year. Their quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, is an unbelievable player; Alabama could probably be competitive in the NFL.

I’ve done a good job of avoiding the hype for the game all week. I’ve made the mistake of getting sucked into this before, and I don’t have the time to bother with it. This past week, according to the hype machine and the newspapers and so forth across the state has been “Hate Bama Week”; I don’t hate Alabama. I have too many friends who went there and/or are fans; I also have family who went there. My distant cousin Gary Hollingsworth–his father and my father are first cousins; I don’t know what that makes us to each other, maybe first cousins once removed, or something like that–was the quarterback for Alabama in 1989 and 1990. (I also know this is all in fun for the most part , but I’ve never enjoyed the taunting or teasing or smack-talk from one fan base to another) My immediate family, and most everyone on my father’s side of the family, are all Auburn fans. I was a kid when Bear Bryant was the coach at Alabama, and I remember their dominance of the SEC in the 1970’s–when their worst season was a three-loss year in 1976. Sound familiar? Alabama’s current dominance began ten years ago in 2008; since then their worst season was a three-loss campaign in 2010. Other than that, I don’t think Alabama has lost more than one game in a regular season in the past eleven years, which is pretty damned impressive. They lost twice in the post-season in 2008 (Florida in SEC title game; Utah in the Sugar Bowl), three games in 2010 (South Carolina, LSU, Auburn), once in 2011 (LSU), to Texas A&M in 2012, Auburn in 2013, lost two years in a row to Ole Miss in 2014 and 2015. They won all their games in 2016, lost to Auburn last year, and are undefeated this year.

You cannot, no matter how badly you want to, deny what Alabama has accomplished under coach Nick Saban, who was 7-6 in his first season in Tuscaloosa–including a loss to Louisiana-Monroe. The next year they rolled into the SEC title game 11-0, and other than 2010, have been a national title contender every year since. That’s a pretty fucking impressive resume, and one that no other college team has even come remotely close to.

LSU hasn’t beaten Alabama since 2011, and hasn’t beaten them in Baton Rouge since 2010.

LSU has slipped since 2011. The Tigers have had some amazing, signature wins since then (Ole Miss in 2014, Georgia this year, to name two) but hasn’t contended for the national or conference championship in those seven years. In 2015 LSU got off to a great 7-0 start, before falling to Alabama in Tuscaloosa and skidding, losing three in a row. This year, the underrated Tigers have somehow managed to be ranked Number 3 in the playoff rankings and 4th in the polls, pulling off a 6-1 start which includes wins over three teams ranked in the Top 10 when they played and another ranked team in Mississippi State. In my wildest preseason dreams, I never would have dreamed we’d ride into Tiger Stadium ranked this high to play Alabama.

To be the best, you have to beat the best, and the best is Alabama. Every national champion since 2008 that is NOT Alabama had to beat Alabama in order to claim the crown (the sole exception being in 2013. Florida State beat Auburn in the closing seconds of the title game to become the only national champion in the last eleven years–LSU was national champion in 2007, and while Alabama wasn’t a contender that year, they still had to beat them–to not have to play Alabama). The dominance of Alabama and Coach Nick Saban is pretty much unparalleled; even the great Bear Bryant didn’t win as many national titles as Coach Saban has–Alabama always seemed to stumble in the post-season under Coach Bryant during the 1970’s, but finally won back to back titles in 1978 and 1979. Bud Wilkinson’s time at Oklahoma in the 1940’s and 1950’s was similar, the Sooners have also had some other periods of enormous success; USC has also had periods of dominance, as has Notre Dame, Michigan, and Ohio State. Florida dominated the SEC in the 90’s; while Florida State and Miami also had great runs in the 80’s and 90’s.

As I said, love them or hate them, you can’t help but admire and respect what Alabama has accomplished, and there’s no end in sight for the foreseeable future to their winning ways.

Of course, I’m hoping LSU can shock the college football world one more time tonight, the same way they did by beating Miami, Auburn, and Georgia. Realistically, I have no idea how this game is going to play out.

But losing to Alabama is kind of like losing to the Patriots, or Serena Williams, or Simone Biles, or Roger Federer. You can only do your best and hold out hope that the breaks go your way; and there’s no disgrace in losing to a great team. I just want LSU to play well.

I grew up rooting for Alabama, and I still do most of the time–just not when they’re playing Auburn or LSU.

And yes, I am the only person in my family who roots for LSU. (My sister, my nieces and nephews are Kentucky fans; they live near Lexington and my youngest nephew and his wife both went there–and they too are having the season of their lives. Today they host Georgia, both teams with one loss, to determine who is going to win the SEC East; and who, before this season, would have dreamed that both Kentucky and LSU, on the first Saturday in November, would essentially be playing for their division titles? NO ONE.)

Even with a loss today, it’s possible for LSU to have its first ten win season since 2011.

I doubt very seriously that LSU won’t be taken seriously in the preseason next year.

GEAUX TIGERS!

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