Take It on the Run

It has been seventeen years, more or less, give and take, since it happened and my life–and my worldview–went through a significant change.

It’s weird how it sneaks up on you when you aren’t expecting it, isn’t it? In the weeks leading up to Memorial Day I am vaguely aware of a sense of unease and discomfort, a feeling like some sort of impending doom is waiting for me just over the horizon. I’ve noticed in recent years that times and date have little meaning to me; at my day job every form I fill out requires a date–month, day, year–over and over again, and this constant use of dates makes them seem to lose their meaning as I write them down, recording them by rote; sometimes glancing up at the display on the telephone mounted on the wall above my working table to remember when my brain seizes up–as it is wont to do from time to time–and the date slips out from my short-term memory and cannot be retrieved by the processor. These meaningless days continue passing, recorded on form after form after form, until one day a date I am recording catches me off guard and I am startled by the rapid passage of time and think something like my God, next week is Paul’s birthday or next week is our anniversary and so forth.

And yet every May, without fail, as I go through the motions of my day to day life and run my errands and put gas in the car and make meals and clean up and work with my clients and try to make it to the gym, I forget about Memorial Day looming in the future, just around the corner, up ahead, waiting to land like a sucker punch in the solar plexus when I am least expecting it to happen. Is it a protective thing, I wonder, my subconscious pushing the memories deep into the darkest corners of my brain, to keep me from reliving some of the darkest hours and days of my life? I’m not sure–and the weird thing is that somehow I am vaguely aware. The memories don’t get pushed back into the cobwebby recesses completely, because I always, inevitably, feel unsettled every May, vaguely off-center, knowing there’s something back there I don’t want to remember, and it makes me tense, stressed, anxious.

And then, between episodes of a show we were streaming (The Drowning, on Acorn or Britbox, I cannot remember which) I got up to make garlic bread as a snack. As I sliced the loaf of French bread to spread the garlic butter paste on to broil in the oven, Paul was telling me about how crowded the Quarter had been on Friday afternoon when he’d gone down there to get his haircut. “It was more crowded than it would usually be before the shutdown,” he said with a shudder, “and all I could think was how awful it seemed.” I agreed with him, expressing that I had little to no desire to ever go out in the Quarter again–while thinking ah yes, you have become the tired old man you always feared you would–when Paul laughed and said, “Well, it’s not like Memorial Day is my favorite time to go out and do anything” and I laughed and kept spreading the paste on the bread as the memories and realizations all came flooding back to me; why I have been so tense and anxious lately; why I was so desperate to get my Xanax prescription refilled (telling myself it was because I needed them to sleep) and WHY I had been unable to sleep in the first place; why there was so much tension and so many knots in my neck, shoulder and back; why I have been unable to focus and why it has felt like I’ve been living under a dark cloud of looming depression for so long.

Memorial Day weekend, 2004, and that horrible phone call that Sunday morning, that Paul was at the emergency room at Charity Hospital and all that ensued from there.

I’ve only written about what happened that weekend once; in the wake of the Pulse massacre, that horrible morning in 2016 when I woke up to the horrible news and sat, glued to my computer screen, refreshing social media and new sites and worrying about my friends and acquaintances in Orlando to check in, so that I would know they were alive. Pulse was horrifying in and of itself, without it being a triggering event for me personally; watching those friends and family outside the bar in the morning hours in Orlando, terrified and wondering if someone they loved, someone they knew had been inside Pulse that night and hadn’t yet heard from, was alive or dead. I’ve never felt that the story of Memorial Day weekend 2004 was mine to tell; as I said to a friend recently, as we talked about the HBO show It’s a Sin and how deeply it affected me, “I’ve never written about my own experiences during that time because I was a survivor and a witness, and to me, writing about it and making money from it seemed wrong to me somehow.” Part of this mentality–which is probably wrong, but I can make a rational case for it from either point of view–comes from being raised to keep personal pain private; I’ve always called it ‘bleeding in public.’ I’ve never wanted to be seen as a victim; I’ve never wanted to publicly dissect my pain for others to see, comment on–especially to belittle or demean.

We survived it, and isn’t that the most important thing?

I’m not sure that I’ve ever really processed it all; dealt with it properly and adequately. I saw a therapist for a few years, and obviously we discussed all of my traumas, all the PTSD from everything I had experienced, but I’m not sure that I’ve ever faced it, dealt with it, handled it. I wrote a short story about it once–“A Streetcar Named Death”–and of course I wrote that blog entry after the Pulse massacre.

But now as I approach sixty–only a few more months–I find myself wondering, about all of the pain and trauma of the past, and whether I have dealt with it in a healthy manner, and if writing about it, which is how I inevitably deal with almost everything, is the way to go with it?

I don’t know. But…I can’t help but feel that I need to; that somehow, despite whatever blowback and snark might come from doing so, that it will finally help me to deal with it and maybe–just maybe–Memorial Day weekend can go back to being what it used to be for me, and I can finally be free from it all.

Chemical

Well, we have apparently survived yet another Monday, so here it is Tuesday morning again.

My manic Monday wasn’t too bad, other than the utter insanity of an issue with my car insurance that is going to end up wasting more of my own time than it’s worth, to be completely honest. I did start getting tired in the afternoon–it’s not easy being a Gregalicious–but I got some emails answered (I will never get all of my emails answered, and that’s just a sad fact I need to accept; because there will always be more) when I got home and then repaired to my easy chair where I finished watching Sons of Liberty. (Paul didn’t get home until just before it was time for me to go to bed.) And here I am this morning with the space heater on–it’s chilly in the Lost Apartment this morning, but I am sure it’s going to warm up during the day time–and apparently our new HVAC unit will be installed today; they’ve been doing all the other work the last few days; it was quite astonishing to come around the last corner to the apartment last night and see a big blank space where the big unit used to be. Better late than never, I suppose, and I hope this means a stronger unit that will help offset the loss of the trees when the sun will shine directly through these windows in the summer time, creating a glass house effect in my kitchen. (I’ve been trying not to think about that too hard.)

I bit the bullet and asked for more time for the book–deadline extension–and they gave me longer than I asked for, which was an enormous relief and pressure release on me. They were actually very lovely about it, and apparently I am much more fragile emotionally than I thought because the kindness of the response almost made me choke up…which wasn’t the response I was expecting to have. I feel like I’m doing a fairly decent job of soldiering on through everything that’s going on in the world and around me these days–so much PTSD, from so many past traumas, I suppose–not to mention that it seems like almost everyone I know is going through a rough time. Two friends lost their fathers over the course of the past week, for example, and there have been so many other issues for everyone I know and care about that it’s almost like one body blow after another. And yet I keep moving forward because there’s no other option, really, and just keep sending out positive energy to my friends while keeping them deep inside my heart and mind and soul. I’ve said it before and I will say it again here–there’s nothing worse than seeing people you care about suffering when there’s nothing you can do about it.

Hell, I don’t even know if people in Texas have recovered from the horror of last week. So many people I owe emails to…heavy heaving sigh. The emails are endless, aren’t they?

The other good news is Paul has finally been scheduled for the vaccine, round one, on Thursday. That’s one less stressor off my plate, and it just now occurred to me that there’s another, buried stressor inside my head–now that I am older, I fear I am going to see a repeat of the past where I keep living while so many people I love and care about do not. After all, it’s happened before, and I think that’s part of the issue of my facing my age and so forth lately–the fear that I will outlive everyone I care about again. Obviously, I am not hoping that I die soon or anything like that–but recognizing a fear that’s been imprinted on my brain, no matter how unrealistic or nonsensical it may be, will certainly help me figure out how to cope with it or conquer it entirely, I think.

Watching Sons of Liberty (and did they ever take liberties with history!) was a pleasing enough diversion; I always enjoy the Revolutionary period–it’s been a favorite of mine since childhood–so when I was finished with the final episode–the signing of the Declaration of Independence–I got down my copy of The Wars of America by Robert Leckie and started reading the bridge section between The Colonial Wars and the Revolutionary War; Leckie’s book is really a history of the country as told through the perspective of the wars and the lead-up to them in the periods between them. Leckie is a very good writer–The Wars of America is one of my favorite histories–but he definitely is a subscriber to the mythology of American exceptionalism, even as he talks right up front about the evils of slavery and the slaughter of the indigenous. (The copy of the book I have now is not the one I had when I was a child; this is an updated version including the Korean and Vietnam wars, and he is very much a drum-thumping anti-Communist right-winger when it comes to those two conflicts, to the point that I’ve never read those chapters because the native jingoism is too much for me to stomach) As I mentioned yesterday, I am now thinking a series of mysteries set in revolutionary Boston, with John Adams as defense attorney and investigator, would be highly interesting. I doubt that I will ever have the time to research or write such a series, but I do wish someone would. I believe–and could be wrong; it just flitted into my brain as a memory–there was at one time an Abigail Adams mystery series; I never read it, but now am curious enough about it to go looking to see if it’s a false memory or not. I mean, why not? Both Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Truman have been the main character in crime series, so why not Abigail? (A very quick search has, indeed, offered up an Abigail Adams mystery series written by Barbara Hamilton; it’s nice to know it wasn’t a figment of my imagination….alas, yet another series of books to go not ye olde wish list.)

And tonight, of course, once I am off work I must go to the gym. I am sure I will have to force myself to go–the temperatures will undoubtedly start falling again after I get off work, so there will be that…but it will feel good, as will the protein shake and shower afterwards. I also have another load of laundry to get started tonight when I get home.

The glamorous life, that’s me.

Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

I Wish You Would

Hurricane Delta is moving ever closer by the moment to our shores. This is one of the worst parts–the inevitable waiting, the need to be completely flexible, and the need to be ready to pack up and get out of Dodge in a hurry if need be. In that regard we are luckier than most when it comes to natural disasters; we have warning so we can get out while there is still time. Tornadoes and earthquakes don’t give you those options; with tornadoes sometimes it’s merely a matter of minutes (those years in Kansas…); earthquakes give you no warning whatsoever. Hurricanes clearly trigger PTSD in me–and have, ever since Katrina–but I would still rather deal with them than tornadoes or earthquakes (been through those during my years in California).

Ugh, natural disasters. Earth’s way of reminding us how unimportant and insignificant we really are.

There was a thing going around Twitter the other day, reading something along the lines of : Fellow authors, creatives… do you think it’s wise to tweet your policital opinions using your author/creative twitter account, or should you keep politics out of your creative timeline? Do you think it might lose you followers, readers, even work, or hurt your cause?

It did make me think a little bit at first. I generally don’t talk about politics much about my social media, or here on my blog; but it’s not about worrying that I might offend and lose readers, for fuck’s sake. The funniest thing to me about that tweet was precisely how privileged it was, and how the person tweeting it didn’t even have the slightest clue about the place of privilege she was coming from.

Simply stated, any writers that are not cishet white heterosexuals has had their very existence politicized, over and over and over again. Two Supreme Court justices, just this very week, very nastily announced that they don’t think queer people are entitled to equality in the eyes of the law; no surprise it was dumpster fires Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. I would love to have the privilege of not having my existence, and my status as an American citizen, politicized and reviled and attacked by bigots and monsters masking their demonic tactics are “religious liberty”; and a little louder for those of you in the back: if your religion is teaching you to treat any other human being with anything less than empathy, understanding, and compassion, you are doing religion wrong.

Period.

Frankly, I don’t exactly see how I could possibly lose any readers who are homophobes or racists or transphobes or fire-breathing conservatives because they would never buy books by a gay man centering gay men and themes in the first place. These are the ones who don’t buy your books but will waste their lives away going on Amazon and looking for queer writers to one-star, with a sentence about “not wanting a political agenda shoved down (their) throat.”

Books by and about queer people are political by nature of their very existence–and this is something which we, like writers of color and any other underprivileged minority in this country do not get to have a choice. The personal is the political for us; it is very interesting to me to see how much privilege is on display in tweets like the one above; while assuredly the intentions of the tweeter were good and she was genuinely curious what other people thought on the subject–other straight white people, obviously. It is an interesting subject, after all; moral stances don’t pay the bills, obviously, and at what point does your survival outweigh your principles?

Some authors are big enough, and successful enough, to not have to worry about offending or losing readers–which is another kind of privilege; recently seen on display with J. K. Rowling, and previously seen with writers like Orson Scott Card, among others–while those writers who aren’t marginalized for something beyond their control and are barely scraping by, hoping their sales will warrant yet another book contract, trying to figure out how to get the word out about their books and sell more copies while balancing a day job and family and everything else, possibly cannot afford to alienate any portion of their reader base if they want to keep writing. I get that, I really do; part of the reason I am so productive (per other people) is a definite fear that at some point my writing career will end–although I have also come to realize that while my career as Greg Herren might end, I could always create a new name and start over again–but it would be really nice to have the kind of reality that makes asking that question even possible to consider. As a gay male writer who writes about gay men and their experiences navigating this country and this world, obviously my books make a political statement; just my existence makes such a statement.

I refuse to closet myself or my work for the convenience of making homophobes more comfortable.

Suck on that, bitches.

Honestly.

Anyway, a friend reminded me of a short story the other day, and it had been quite the hot minute since I’d read Ray Bradbury’s “The Whole Town’s Sleeping,” and so I thought, why not reread it for the Short Story Project?

So I did.

The courthouse clock chimed seven times. The echoes of the chines faded.

Warm summer twilight here in upper Illinois country in this little town deep and far away from everything, kept to itself by.a river and a forest and a meadow and a lake. The sidewalks still scorched. The stores closing and the streets shadowed. And there were two moons; the clock moon with four faces in four night directions above the solemn black courthouse, and the real moon rising in vanilla whiteness from the dark east.

In the drugstore fans whispered in the high ceilings. In the rococo shade of porches, a few invisible people sat. Cigars glowed pink, on occasion. Screen doors whined their springs and slammed. ON the purple bricks of the summer-night streets, Douglas Spaulding ran; dogs an boys followed after.

“Hi, Miss Lavinia!”

Isn’t that a lovely start? I have to confess, I’ve not read much Bradbury–I’m not even sure how I read this story in the first place, but I remembered it; there must have been a short-story collection I picked up somewhere and read that I don’t recall. I know that I read it sometime after I had read Night Shift by Stephen King; because when I originally read this story it made me think of his story, “Strawberry Spring,” both in its style, voice and content SPOILER: both are serial killer stories, and both are written in that same Norman Rockwell Americana type voice; look at this sweet, picturesque American community, isn’t it lovely and aspirational and oh, by the way, there’s a serial killer on the loose. Before rereading the story, all I could remember was that weird Rockwellian voice, the Americana of the depiction of the town, and the ending. I also remembered the suspense of the scene where Miss Lavinia, after walking her companions home after seeing the Chaplin movie, thinks someone is following her as she hurries home alone. I’d forgotten that she and one of her friends found the body of the latest victim on the way to the movie, and yet continue on; that was extremely weird, and I also remembered the wonderful twist of the final sentence of the story, once she has safely gotten home. The serial killer, The Lonely One, kills a woman every month–and yet, in this pristine little slice of Americana small town life, no one in the town seems to take the killer all that seriously, or worry all that much about becoming his next victim. The voice vs the content is a masterstroke of writing, frankly; and I must admit, I’m not really sure why I haven’t read more Bradbury. I remember reading Something Wicked This Way Comes–I also remember thinking recently that I should reread it–and Dandelion Wine, and there must have been a short story collection I read as well; but I never read any of the science fiction–my education in Heinlein and other science fiction greats is also sorely lacking (although I have read quite a bit of Azimov and of course, Dune). I think I’ve avoided the great science fiction writers of back in the day because the advances in technology in reality have made some of those stories probably obsolete–watching 2001 recently, along with Blade Runner, was interesting in seeing what major corporations of the time they were made are no longer around (Pan Am and Howard Johnson’s, for a few) that people of the time couldn’t possibly imagine wouldn’t be around in the future. Perhaps I’ll move Something Wicked This Way Comes closer to the top of the reread pile. I didn’t enjoy it all that much at the time–I was expecting something a little more Stephen King-ish–and with more of an adult, better read mentality, I might enjoy and appreciate it more. I am certainly intrigued by that voice, which is very similar to the one he used in the short story.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely and safe Thursday, Constant Reader!

Bad Blood

So, I took the plunge yesterday and signed contracts for the two manuscripts on hand. As I said on social media immediately afterward, this is either the smartest thing I’ve done this year or a several miscalculation. One can never be sure in either case–until the game is afoot. It’s not that bad; both are in fairly decent shape and need one more final draft, so it’s not like I’m starting from scratch or anything–that would be utter madness.

So, Gregalicious, what are your two manuscripts about?

BURY ME IN SHADOWS

When a partying spree after a bad break-up lands college student Jake Chapman in the hospital, his attorney mother gives him two choices: rehab, or spend the summer in rural Alabama at his dying grandmother’s home. He doesn’t like either choice, but decides on Alabama because at least there’s a semblance of freedom. There’s a lot going on there, as well–a team of archaeologists are excavating the ruins of the old plantation house, Blackwood Hall, out in the woods behind his grandmother’s house. Once he is there, he starts experiencing bizarre headaches and emotional swings– as well as having flashes of memory that he can’t place. He starts finding out family secrets–dead uncles he never knew about, legends about the family’s past–and  there’s also the Tuckers, who live in the next holler over–with their moonshine still and meth lab. With the discovery of a skeleton out at the ruins, Jake begins to realize he is in danger–but is the danger something from a distant past, or a murderer in the present? Will someone kill to keep the family secrets?

#shedeservedit

Liberty Center High School’s football team has a long history of success–state and conference championships, players who went on to play in college–and often, the Spartan football team is all the dying small town has to hold on to, and their primary source of pride as businesses and industries and opportunities have dried up. But when one of the team stars disappears the night of the first game–and his dead body is later found–his best friend, Alex Wheeler, begins putting things together in an effort to clear himself of suspicion,  connecting the dots that lead back a few weeks to the suicide of cheerleader Angie Dixon, and the football party where she had too much to drink and was sexually assaulted. Was the on-line bullying and sharing of pictures of her from the party what drove her to suicide? Or was it murder? How far will people go to cover up misconduct by the football players? What other dark secrets are hiding beneath the placid surface in this oh-too-typical American small town,  Liberty Center? Alex and his girlfriend India soon find their own lives are in danger as they get closer and closer to the horrifying truth about the rot at the center of one of the state’s strongest football programs.

I certainly hope those whet your appetite to read them, Constant Reader! Covers to come, of course, as well as publication dates. I also don’t think I’ve ever revealed the title of the Kansas book before, so there you have it.

It does feel kind of nice to know that I will actually have a book (or maybe two) out in 2021; it felt very weird to not have one this year. I can’t remember the last time I missed a year of publishing at least one book per year, but the last one I actually remember for certain is 2005 (there may have been one in the teens; I think I may have skipped a year–2017, maybe? 2018? I honestly don’t know). I want to get my next short story collection put together at some point during 2021 as well–not sure what stories and what the title will be, but I really want to get that taken care of in the next year, and aren’t goals a lovely thing? I also want to get moving with Chlorine–the research has been phenomenally fun; here’s hoping the actual writing will be fun as well. I think I might have to write a Scotty book at some point in the next year as well; I know I want to do a pre-pandemic book (between Christmas–Royal Street Reveillon–and the pandemic this year; I really want to write about that fucked up 2020 Carnival season, and I have a really nasty idea for a plot that simply has to be written….) and I know I want to do a pandemic story for Scotty as well; I’m just not sure what that story would look like. I know people are saying they aren’t going to want to read about the pandemic, but it’s such a rich vein for story-telling and story ideas, I kind of am not sure how true that will be. I just can’t see writing about a world where it never happened–especially in a series; it’s much easier to pretend in a stand alone.

Does that make any kind of sense? To me–and my warped mind–it sort of does. I don’t know why it’s so important to me to not miss years between books–it’s not like the world is knocking down my door, or anyone is holding a gun to my head to make sure I publish something–but it is, and I think if I salvage or take away anything from this dreadful year, I’d like it to be I got those two fucking books finished and out of my hair.

I went to be early last night–it’s really been a week–and I slept for nearly ten hours, which I never do, and it felt actually pretty marvelous. LSU is playing Vanderbilt today–I don’t have very high hopes after last week, which is fine–and one of the lovely things about this abrogated season, coupled with LSU’s unexpected loss last week, is that I seriously doubt I will spend my Saturdays this fall watching football games all day, while sitting in my easy chair reading, writing in my journal, and editing things. INstead, I should be able to sit at my desk and focus on writing–now that I have deadlines, I need to be better about being on top of things and getting things finished as quickly as I can–and while it’s disappointing, what else is new with 2020? Everything is off this year, and there really is something to the notion of simply eradicating 2020 from the books; the way ancient Egyptians used to go back and remove names from statues and carvings and temples, to try to obliterate a pharaoh from their history (and yes, I watched a documentary on Akhenaten last night, why do you ask?), and not really counting it.

We watched the season finale of Ted Lasso last night, and I have to say, I am going to miss my weekly visits with him and the Richmond soccer team. I was very glad to see it was already renewed for another season, and it’s another one of those terribly sweet shows that will make you laugh while at the same time touching you and bringing up tears in your eyes (much as Schitt’s Creek did). It’s what they used to call “heartwarming”–and you have no idea, Constant Reader, how much I hate that word and how I generally tend to avoid anything referred to in that way–only it’s not emotionally manipulative like most “heartwarming” books, movies and TV shows; the sweetness genuinely evolves from the characters and their relationships with each other. I love this show–and it’s hard not to love the characters. Like Schitt’s Creek, the premise struck me at first as not only ludicrous but cliched; but the writing is so strong, the acting so pitch perfect, and the cast chemistry undeniable. And the optimistic, kind, always look on the bright side while always looking for the good in people character of Ted Lasso himself is the jeweled centerpiece of the show.

I have to run errands today; I’d intended to run them yesterday once I’d finished my work but by the time five rolled around I really wasn’t terribly in the mood to get out amongst people, so inevitably I shall have to do it today, which is, you know, fine; making groceries seems to always tire me out these days but that’s also fine. I want to start reading John Vercher’s Three Fifths at long last this weekend, so if I am tired when I get home I can do that. I need to do some revisions on things this weekend, too–and I should get some work done on the book manuscript as well. There’s also some cleaning and touching up around here I need to do–there are still some remnants of the Notorious Grease Fire that need to be tidied up–and feeling well-rested, as well as mentally sharp this morning certainly cannot hurt in that regard.

As always, I have a lot to do, but the lovely thing is that this morning, it doesn’t seem horrifyingly overwhelming–it just seems like my normal existence, which it usually is, and so there’s that. I did do a lot of cleaning and organizing while I was waiting for Paul to come home last night, and so the downstairs looks much lovelier and organized than it usually does. There’s still a shit ton of filing to get done (isn’t there always?) and part of my plan for this morning before running the errands is to make the long overdue to-do list, add things to my calendar so I won’t forget about them needing to be done, and trying to get set up so that once I am ready to get going I won’t forget things. I’ve always been ridiculously busy–and I think I’ve actually been busier before than I am now, if I am being completely honest–and I think the primary problem I’ve been having has been chemical; PTSD and depression, etc. as well as the occasional feeling of hopelessness this year has wrought with everyone at some point, I think. Not that there’s a such thing as a normal year, but this year has been so abnormal that it sort of stands out from the rest–it certainly has erased all memories of 2019, which also sucked, from the hard drive in my brain.

And on that note, I think it’s time to head into the spice mines this morning. I thank you for stopping by and listening, Constant Reader, and may you have a glorious, absolutely glorious, Saturday.

I

I c##

Don’t Blame Me

The morning after, and Orleans Parish is in a tornado warning/flash flood watch until 4 pm this afternoon. It’s still creepily gray outside this morning, and it’s still too early for damage assessments to where Laura came ashore last night as the most powerful hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana since 1856.

18 fucking 56.

Today is usually my day to go into the office and make works supply bags for the syringe access program, but I am not sure what the weather holds–I haven’t checked yet (other than the alerts on my phone), not have I checked to see any news reports as of yet for southwest Louisiana. I have four boxes of condom packs to take in–yes, I’ve been a productive motherfucker this week; I already took in two boxes the other day–and I do need more supplies for tomorrow. I am dreading to see what this storm did, frankly; hurricane season always brings a little PTSD for me in its wake–probably always will–and viewing storm damage photos and videos and hearing survivors’ stories inevitably makes me weepy. While writing Murder in the Rue Chartres (and years later, “Survivor’s Guilt”) was cathartic, the psychological scars may never heal completely.

While making my condom packs yesterday, I watched another 1970’s movie in my on-going 1970’s film festival, Magic, starring Anthony Hopkins and Ann-Margret. I’ve watched this movie before, but a long time ago, and I had also read the novel on which it was based, by William Goldman. Goldman also wrote The Princess Bride and Marathon Man; I went through a Goldman phase after reading The Princess Bride–and his career was pretty amazing, actually; he rarely wrote the same kind of book and was never really pigeon-holed as a novelist. He was also an Oscar winning screenwriter–he won Oscars for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men (which is on my list for my 1970’s film festival; it also contains the line “follow the money” which he wrote for the movie and is now a part of the vernacular)–and he was a terrific novelist. I don’t really remember much of the novel of Magic, nor did I remember much of the film, other than remembering that there was one scene in particular that was absolutely terrifying; guess what? It still is.

I’ve also found ventriloquist dummies to be terrifying ever since.

Magic begins with a young magician, Corky, (a very young Anthony Hopkins) appearing at an amateur night and bombing badly; after he comes back to an apartment where his mentor, Merlin Jr., is very ill, he tries to pretend he did well but Merlin sees through him. Flash forward another year, and David Ogden Stiers is arriving at the same club–which has a massive line outside–to meet Burgess Meredith, who is an agent and wants him to see the act of his client, Hopkins. Hopkins starts doing some card tricks but starts getting heckled; turns out the heckler is his ventriloquist dummy, Fats–who makes up a huge part of the act and the audience loves him. The network guy–Stiers–loves the act, and soon he’s offered an enormous contract for his own network special, but it requires a physical, which Hopkins flatly refuses to do, and flees New York to the Catskills, where he grew up, and goes to stay at a closed resort, run by Ann-Margret, whom he had a crush on a kid. Ann-Margret’s marriage to her high school sweetheart has failed, and become abusive, and they slowly start to begin a relationship, the relationship Corky wishes they’d had in high school. However, Corky and Fats have an even stranger relationship; is Corky insane, with DID, thinking Fats is real and can speak to him, or is Fats real? The movie never really lets us know one way or the other, and it eventually devolves into murder–and of course, a really sad, tragic, cynical ending which was very typical of the 1970’s. Both Hopkins and Ann-Margret–and Burgess Meredith, too, for that matter, are absolutely terrific; Hopkins should have become a star based on this film alone, and I’ve never understood why Ann-Margret–who was incredibly beautiful–never had a bigger career. Jerry Houser, best known for Summer of ’42 and playing Marcia Brady’s husbands in later reboots of The Brady Bunch, also has a bit role as the cabdriver who brings Corky up to the Catskills…and I couldn’t think of his name as I watched; I had to look it up later. He was kind of sexy, too, in that 1970’s kind of way.

Paul and I also started watching the documentary series The Case Against Adnan Syed on HBO MAX last night, and got two episodes into it. I never listened to the podcast that made this case so famous (I am behind the curve on podcasts, and can admit that), but the documentary is very well done and very interesting–look forward to seeing the rest. Only two episodes in, I am not certain how they managed to get a conviction, to be honest, unless it was racially motivated on the part of the jury; we’ll see how the rest of the series goes.

And now to check the weather before heading into the spice mines.

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Yesterday, When I Was Mad

Saturday! S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y, night!

Ah, the Bay City Rollers.

Anyway, my shoulder is still sore this morning and in a little while I am going to close my browser–I like going dark on the weekends from social media and email; it makes my weekends ever so much more relaxing and I am able to get so much more done than if I have everything open on my computer. My goal is to get the Secret Project finished this weekend–there’s absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t be able to, other than laziness–as long as I don’t allow distractions to rear their ugly heads. My new milk frother–I know you’ve all been wondering about it since I mentioned it yesterday–got its first trial run this morning and it is quite marvelous. The first one was a low-cost no brand and very inexpensive; I decided to go with a more expensive one this time around and so far, it’s earning its keep.

I slept well again last night, although my shoulder is still sore from the vaccination on Thursday, but the icky feeling I experienced the rest of that day is long gone, thank the heavens. We also watched almost all of the final season of Dark last night; we only have the series finale left, and its really very good; riveting, hard to tear your eyes away from (and not just because of the subtitles; I am learning that shows with subtitles require your full attention, since listening doesn’t do any good) and I’ve also started picking up phrases and words that I recognize from studying German as a teenager. It would actually, if I have any desire to become bilingual, make sense to study German again; since I have a background in it….although I still would prefer to learn Italian.

Paul is also going into the office today to work on a grant, so I also have the house to myself today–yet another reason to turn off the Internet. I still have some cleaning to do around the house as well–and there’s always filing that needs to be done–but I am hopeful that I won’t spend the day falling into an organizational wormhole. (It happens, trust me.) And while I would like to spend some time at some point with the top drawer of my filing cabinet (having already taken on the bottom drawer last weekend) I am going to use that as the carrot for getting work done on the Secret Project this weekend–as well as reading some more of Cottonmouths. I also have to run to the post office today–some things I ordered arrived yesterday–and I also need to get gas and air up one of my car tires (it has had a slow leak ever since I bought the car, and of course my lazy ass has never done anything about it other than airing it up again); which means going out into the heat and humidity, which is so draining and soul-destroying. I’m having dinner tomorrow night with a friend in from out of town–socially distancing ourselves from each other, of course–but this will also be my first experience eating out at a restaurant since, well, since I went to New York in January for the MWA board meeting (Paul and I rarely go out to eat–generally we just get it to go on those rare occasions when I don’t cook). I know how bizarre that must seem, given we live in a city stuffed to bursting with terrific places to eat, but I genuinely like to cook and have no problem with doing so.

It really is amazing, now that I am actually thinking about it, how far off course I’ve gotten this year with everything I wanted to get done. Sure, I’ve sold some short stories (always a pleasure!) but I’ve also not gotten a lot of things done that I had wanted to get done. Bury Me in Shadows is still languishing, waiting to be completely overhauled; the Kansas book is doing much the same; and while I did make some progress on Chlorine, I am nowhere near as far along this year as I would have hoped. Granted, MWA business has taken a lot more time than I thought it would, and of course, the pandemic and all those months of being ill didn’t help matters much. We haven’t found a new gym, because we aren’t sure how long whatever gym we might join would remain open after joining; COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Louisiana and have started rising again here in Orleans Parish. I also know I shouldn’t beat myself up over this stuff because there is no right way to handle a pandemic, or any of the PTSD it brought along with it. Now that I am feeling healthy and myself again, of course, I have to play catch up with everything, but I can’t help but bemoan somewhat all the lost time from this year. I’m not getting any younger–next month I will be fifty-nine, with sixty just one short year away–and if I want to accomplish as much as I want to accomplish in what time i have left, I really need to stop wasting time.

On the other hand, there’s also the point that I should try to at the very least enjoy the time I have left on this planet. Who knows? I could get killed in a car accident today on the way to and from the postal service. Man plans, after all, and the gods laugh.

I’ve also been wondering lately about the next Scotty book–should there be another Scotty book–and have actually been thinking about going back in time and writing a book that would fit between Mardi Gras Mambo and Vieux Carre Voodoo. I’ve never done a Scotty post-Katrina book, and have only vaguely referenced that period in his life–but then I think, well, you don’t really have much memory of that time any more left in your brain anymore and you did a Chanse book set in the post-Katrina city, so why bother revisiting that with Scotty? Wasn’t the whole reason you never did one in the first place because you couldn’t figure out how to do a light, funny book set in that time period?

So, yeah, there’s that. It’s more likely that I’ll do a pandemic murder mystery with Scotty–Quarter Quarantine Quadrille has a lovely ring to it–but of course, it’s kind of hard to do such a book without knowing how the pandemic is going to end–how and when. But I did leave the Scotty personal story on a cliff-hanger, and I have to do something about that. My original, pre-pandemic thought, was to do a book based around the Hard Rock Hotel collapse (remember that? No one else seems to); after all, one of the husbands of the Grande Dames from the last book was a shyster developer, and Canal Street Canard also has a nice ring to it–and then I could always do the pandemic book right after it.

It’s a thought, anyway. I also have titles for numerous Scotty books for the years to come…but perhaps at some point it will be time to let him and the boys retire.

And on that note, I am going back into the spice mines. I’m going to read Cottonmouths until it’s time to run my errand, and then I’ll come home, shower and dive into the Secret Project. May you have a lovely, restful, peaceful Saturday, Constant Reader.

Love, Etc.

Saturday morning and I am hoping to have a good writing day today. I usually don’t respond to emails on the weekends–read them, just don’t reply–because I try to spend the majority of my free time on weekends writing or reading and not getting sucked into the endless bottomless pit that is social media and/or emails.

It also kind of helps keep me my sanity (on which my grasp is often tenuous) going.

Yesterday was the first time in a very long time where I felt good, and felt like my brain was working clearly and not through a fog of some sort. I think that might be some kind of PTSD thing; it’s hard to describe but whenever I am dealing with something horrific, I am able to function but it’s like this dark curtain has dropped down over my mind, and I see myself actually functioning but from a distance, almost like I am watching someone else. I guess it might be a sort of dissociative state? But yesterday it felt like the veil had lifted and I could see things clearly; I also wasn’t tired at all and was able to go up and down the stairs without resting. I also slept really well the last few nights, so hopefully the insomnia stuff is a thing of the past.

Ha ha ha. As if.

I worked from home yesterday and actually was able to get a lot accomplished. I finished all my data entry work and then started folding inserts for condom packs–very exciting, I know, but it is what it is. Our STI clinic is open again on a limited basis–Mondays and Tuesdays only–so I am getting back into the swing of my regular work again. I think that helps me both emotionally and intellectually; routine is very key. Today I am going to work on the Secret Project for a little while–trying to get as much done as I can, to try to make up for the lost weekends when I was so exhausted and/or sick over the last few weeks or so; tomorrow I am going to polish and revise my Sherlock story again–it’s been a week since I revised it based on the edits I received, so I think it’s sat long enough for me to look at it clearly and divorced from attachment.

We did finish watching Elite last night, and I am still saddened that it’s over for now–no word on when Season 4 will drop, but it was actually renewed for another two seasons. I am literally obsessed with the show now; I am writing a very long blog entry about the show that I started writing last night after we finished watching, and even went into a deep Youtube wormhole about the show for a good long while. Heavy sigh.

So my plans for today clearly include writing, cleaning and getting organized, and relaxing for the most part. We need to find a new gym, but I am leaving that in Paul’s hands; I found St. Charles Athletic Club seventeen years ago, and since he pays for our gym memberships, his input is what matters the most. We are looking at a place in our neighborhood on Magazine Street, in the block just before the intersection at Jackson Avenue, and this will be a rather nice change in my usual regular routine if we do wind up joining there.

I really do need to explore this city more. I just wish I had more time.

And on that note, I am heading back into the spice mines.

A Different Point of View

Several nasty storm systems passed through last evening–loud and long claps of thunder, high winds, and a downpour. It was lovely–as was the drop in temperature–and there’s few things I love more than being safe and cozy inside while there’s a downpour outside.  It’s still kind of gray and hazy outside this morning, which is nice, and I am sure the weather helped me sleep better last night. I didn’t sleep well on Friday, and wound up sleeping later than I’d wanted (the same thing happened this morning as well but I slept better last night) and the day wound up a wash. I was tired and suffering from burn out, I think, and having to go deal with the grocery store was a bit much. The grocery store is an odious chore under the best of circumstances, and under quarantine it’s even worse. For one thing, I feel guilty for being out in a public space, and for another, I feel so bad for the underpaid staff who are out there risking their lives and their health so that we can buy groceries. I try to be as helpful and as polite as I possibly can, but I don’t blame them in the least for resenting their customers. My job is also deemed essential, so outside of the shifts in how everything from grocery shopping and so forth have been altered, my life hasn’t really changed that much. I still get up every day and go to work. I may not be able to go to the gym anymore (for the duration), and I may go to the grocery store less…but my life has only changed in the times I work, more than anything else, and what I do at work. I don’t resent our clients–but I would imagine, if I were a grocery store employee, I’d resent the hell out of the customers.

Yesterday was, as I said, a wash. I woke up feeling tired and out of sorts, with very low energy, and making groceries is even more draining and exhausting than it usually is. I had very little creative energy yesterday morning, and after making groceries, I did some cleaning and retired to my easy chair. Paul got us lunch from the Please U Cafe–shrimp po’boys and homemade onion rings–as a treat, and of course, I couldn’t finish the onion rings and was stuffed, not needing dinner. I was going to do some reading, but Paul and I wound up watching the rest of the first season of My Life is Murder, which I greatly enjoyed, and then we moved on to the Netflix continuation of Tales of the City, which is very well done; much better than the originals, to be honest. We only have two episodes left, and we stayed up later than we should have watching. I’m hoping to start rereading Scott Heim’s Mysterious Skin today, if I have time. Since I took yesterday off to recharge my batteries, I have to get a lot done today. I need to get that first draft of the Sherlock story finished; I need to get another story edited; and I am doing a live ZOOM panel discussion tonight for Bold Strokes Books weekend book-a-thon, which is going to be interesting. I’m not really a fan of the whole ZOOM thing, to be honest–I hate seeing myself on screen, and I really hate the sound of my own voice–so these things are like Kryptonite for me. But in this brave  new world, I need to start doing these things…which also kind of terrify me. I’m always afraid, like book signings, that no one will click to watch or no one will show up if I do a live reading on-line or anything like that. And I am so highly critical of myself…yeah, I’m not sure I want to open that door or not.

But how does one sell books in the time of quarantine? Post-quarantine? Who knows?

I am going to make chili in the slow cooker today; it’s been awhile and it will help clear my head to get writing this afternoon–there’s nothing like doing something that doesn’t require full concentration (like chopping peppers and rinsing beans and dicing up a chicken) that opens the floodgates to my creativity. I just have to make sure that I channel that creativity properly; the last thing in the world I need to do is come up with ideas for new stories–because I’ll never write all the ideas I already have as there will never be enough time in my life for me to write everything I want to write. So, once I finish this I am going to try to get the kitchen organized and cleaned up while I get the chili started, and then I’m going to get cleaned up before sitting down to do some serious writing this afternoon, and then hopefully I’ll have some time to read before it’s time for the panel.

I’m also very conscious of the way time is slipping through my fingers. I had hoped to write several books this year, and here it is past mid-April already without a single novel manuscript finished. A lot of it has to do with my usual procrastination and laziness, plus the emotional unbalance triggered by a global pandemic, creative ADHD, and the occasional bout with PTSD. I honestly don’t want to think about how many short stories I’ve started writing since the year (and haven’t finished); that goes along with the other story fragments I have started over the last two years or so. Some of them are great ideas, and I think could really turn into something; others I am not so sure about. But my goal for the rest of April is to get these stories due by the end of the month finished, and then try to get some of the others done as well by May 1st. I intend to spend May whipping Bury Me in Shadows into place so i can get it turned in; spend June doing the same to the Kansas book, and then spend July writing the first draft of Chlorine, before moving on to the next Scotty book. This is, needless to say, a very ambitious writing schedule; one that I most likely will be unable to keep. But it’s always good to plan ahead, and be more ambitious than you think you’ll be able to go with (although I am very well aware that an overly ambitious schedule presents the potentiality of setting one’s self up to fail, which can trigger another downward spiral in addition to awakening that horrible voice in my head) because even if you can’t keep up with it, you should still be able to get a lot finished. And there are other distractions along the way–can never forget that I’m the Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America, and that inevitably cuts into my writing time as well.

But on that note, tis time to get back to the spice mines and start getting some things done around here–and to that end, I am going to do my stretching, and get cleaned up.

Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

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Heaven’s Just a Sin Away

I’m tired.

I think the worst thing of all this is the uncertainty, you know? Every time the fatigue sets in, every time my mind gets foggy, every time I can feel my temperature going up, after the great here we go again thought comes the what if you actually test negative? What does that mean? If you don’t have this, what the hell is wrong with you?

Paul suggested that part of the fatigue could come from the lack of activity, and there’s a possibility that might be true. Once I finish this, I am going to get down on the kitchen floor and stretch, just to see how that feels. I am really not overly comfortable going for a walk, in all honesty; not knowing whether or not I am actually infected makes going out of the Lost Apartment seem like an incredibly foolish and irresponsible thing to do. I do have a mask–an official medical one, and gloves too–I had to buy these when Paul had his heart surgery all those years ago, and my tendency to hoard actually came in handy for once, so I suppose keeping a distance from others while wearing gloves and a mask should be okay, but there’s so much uncertainty about everything–hell, I don’t know if I actually am infected or not–that I just don’t know what I should be doing or should not be doing.

But I am lucky, because if I do indeed have this, at least it hasn’t moved into my lungs, at least not yet. I think it’s the lung part that is problematic for people; the inability to breathe, of course, would be horrifying, as well as feeling like you’re drowning. I go back and forth all the time on everything; it’s horrible to be indecisive, to not know what the right decisions are or even what the consequences of the wrong decisions could even be. This also isn’t like me, and I don’t know if it’s the foggy head or just the times or if I am simply being visited by some good old PTSD. Anything at this point is possible, and there are so many goddamned variables…and being trained since birth to always expect the worst doesn’t help much, frankly.

Yesterday wasn’t too bad, all things considered. I did some chores around the house once I woke up, ate some cereal, and then was exhausted (again, lack of activity, or illness?) and so I collapsed into my easy chair and couldn’t even focus on reading. I did get a few chapters more into Ammie, Come Home but after awhile put it aside and got lost in Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror. ESPNU also decided to replay a series of LSU games from last season–the Mississippi game, then the play-off game with Oklahoma and the national title game–so I had that on while I read and dozed off and on. I never nap; and I always have trouble sleeping–which is the truly weird thing about all of this; the amount of sleep I’m getting, and then again–maybe I’m tired from sleeping too much, I don’t know. After Paul got home and we watched the end of Schitt’s Creek (which I am very sad to say goodbye to; it may be my favorite sitcom of all time), and then I read some more before going to bed.

The exciting life of a gay mystery novelist.

I do have creative bursts, though-which gives me hope that someday soon I might actually start writing again. I’ve been thinking through Bury Me in Shadows, and I think i might have actually solved the mystery of what’s wrong with the story. In fact, rather than reading any of my various books that I have spread out on the end table next to my easy chair (the two afore-mentioned, along with Du Maurier’s The Breaking Point and my iPad, which has a plethora of books in its various book-reading apps) I should probably reread the entire manuscript, perhaps even do an outline, and then figure out how to make it better and revise it, so when I can get back on a roll with writing again I can get back to it. I’ve also been thinking about the Kansas book, and I think I’ve cracked that code at long last–since I started writing it in either 2015 or 2016, about fucking time, wouldn’t you say–and so maybe, just maybe, i can get to that too. I also have to write my Sherlock story. The kitchen is also a mess–there’s a load in the dishwasher that has to be put away and the sink is full of dirty dishes as well, and there are clothes in the dryer as well-and God knows when the last time I did the floors was. I am going to try to get some of this stuff handled at some point today.

And on that note, I am going to try to get started on everything and see how much I can get done before I run out of energy–not that I have a lot right now, but the coffee is helping give me a bit of a boost, which is always nice–and see what can get taken care of before the malaise comes back.

Sorry to be such a downer, and I hope all is well with you, Constant Reader–and stay safe.

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Amarillo by Morning

So, this morning when I woke up, as my first cup of coffee brewed, I dialed the COVID-19 testing hot-line for staff at the day job and made an appointment to get tested. They scheduled me for 9:20 am; I was called at around eight thirty, which left me with about fifty minutes to wake up, drink some coffee, and pull myself together. Our clinic’s COVID testing set-up is in the parking garage which is the ground floor of our building; staff simply drives into the garage and pulls up to the area where the tents and check-in desk are set up, and the doctor comes out and swabs your nose. Needless to say, as I swilled down coffee and brewed another quick cup to take with me in the car, my nerves were definitely feeling a bit frayed. Saturday was a better day than Friday; yesterday was better than Saturday. So far this morning I seem to feel okay other than fatigue–going up stairs to put on a T-shirt and shorts to drive over to the office made my legs and hips ache a bit; it also triggered a small coughing fit (note: the only time my lungs feel tight is when I cough; other than that I breathe fine and they don’t phase me at all. But when I cough, I feel a tightness in the center of my chest that is pretty severe–but as I said, once the coughing spasm passed, I feel fine) but I got dressed and drove over to the office. It didn’t take long as the streets are pretty empty–there’s some traffic, to be sure, and a pandemic and over-burdened hospitals doesn’t seem to be stopping people from driving like thoughtless assholes–and then I pulled into the garage, got checked in, signed my consent to be tested form, and Dr. Halperin came out and swabbed both nostrils.

And while I can see why the vice-president thought it was invasive–I imagine anything put it any of his orifices would be invasive to him–it really wasn’t that bad. It’s certainly not the worst thing I’ve ever had done to me; I’d certainly rather get my nostrils swabbed like that on a regular basis than have an abscessed tooth ever again, and the worst part of it wasn’t the invasiveness at all. The worst part is the chemical on the swab–it doesn’t quite burn per se, but the closest experience I can think of to it is when you accidentally and deeply inhale mothballs; my eyes watered and it burned a little bit, but not painfully.

In a best case scenario, the test results will be back within 2-4 days–it may be longer, who knows? But I have to go into a strict quarantine until the results do come back, which means not leaving the house or running any errands or doing much of anything. Of course I have gloves and masks, so I can theoretically do some things and leave the house if necessary, but I shouldn’t really take the risk of infecting someone else by going out in public until I know for a certain whether I currently have it, or did have it, or don’t have it at all. I was also a little confused because I’d assumed there would be a blood draw to go with the swab test, but I am also conditioned to thinking about testing for different viruses (HIV, syphilis, and Hep C) so I assumed the testing would also have to involve blood. But then I realized, afterwards as I was driving home, that mucous doesn’t carry the HIV, syphilis or Hep C viruses (virii?); but the COVID-19 virus can be airborne transmitted–which means it must be in the mucous membranes along with the antibodies.

At least that makes testing for it that much easier, so that’s kind of a plus?

I also noticed, this morning, a little bit of PTSD kicking in from the good old HIV/AIDS pandemic days–“oh, look, I need to get tested for a potentially fatal virus and have to wait days to get the results back”–but I quickly tamped that down, shoved the lid closed and firmly padlocked it. I suppose it’s a bit of a surprise that particular version of all the PTSD’s I have locked behind various doors in my brain took so long to try to worm it’s way out, but it did finally show up and I was able to beat it down rather easily.

Thank you, coping mechanisms, developed over several decades of seemingly endless trauma.

I didn’t have to take a nap yesterday, but after we finished watching Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears, a lovely stand-alone film follow-up to the wonderful Miss Fisher series from Australia (it was kind of an Indiana Jones-lite adventure, set in Palestine in 1928 and quite fun), I got down my copy of Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror and opened it up to the chapter about the Black Death. Yes, I recognize that my recent fascination with plagues and epidemics and pandemics is probably morbid, given the current state of affairs in the world, yet my curiosity had always had a bit of morbidity to it and it’s really not surprising that it would take this kind of turn. (And I’m actually kind of glad; I was glad to finally read “Death in Venice” even if it left me a little cold; and it also led me down the path to rereading “The Masque of the Red Death”, and back into my Daphne du Maurier short stories) Realistically, while everyone talks about the Spanish influenza pandemic of a hundred years ago, primarily because it was the most recent pandemic (note to self: reread Katherine Anne Porter’s “Pale Horse Pale Rider”), the worst pandemic in history was clearly the bubonic plague, the Black Death, or, as it was known more simply during the fourteenth century, “the pestilence.”

Here’s how the chapter opens:

In October 1347, two months after the fall of Calais, Genoese trading ships put into the harbor of Messina in Sicily with dead and dying men at the oars. The ships had come from the Black Sea port of Caffa (now Feodosiya) in the Crimea, where the Genoese maintained a trading post. The diseased sailors showed strange black swellings about the size of an egg or an apple in the armpits and groin. The swellings oozed blood and pus and were followed by spreading boils and black blotches on the skin from internal bleeding. The sick suffered severe pain and died quickly within five days of the first symptoms. As the disease spread, other symptoms of continuous fever and spitting of blood appeared instead of the swelling or buboes. The victims coughed and sweated heavily and died even more quickly, within three days or less, sometimes in 24 hours. In both types everything that issued from the body–breath, sweat, blood from the buboes and lungs, bloody urine, and blackened excrement–smelled foul. Depression and despair accompanied the physical symptoms, and before the end “death is seen seared on the face.”

The disease was bubonic plague, present in two forms: one that infected the bloodstream, causing the buboes and internal bleeding, and was spread by contact; and a second, more virulent pneumonic type that infected the lungs and was spread by respiratory infection. The presence of both at once caused the high mortality and speed of contagion. So lethal was the disease that cases were known of persons going to bed well and dying before they woke, of doctors catching the illness at a bedside and dying before the patient. So rapidly did it spread from one to another that to a French physician, Simon de Covino, it seemed as if one sick person “could infect the whole world.” The malignity of the pestilence appeared more terrible because its victims knew no prevention and no remedy.

The chapter is pretty horrific, and it’s hard to imagine what it must have been like to live through in the fourteenth century. It’s impossible to know how many people died because they died so quickly that graveyards overflowed and burial pits had to be dug; people simply dragged the bodies of their dead loved ones to the pits and dumped them there. Estimates were obviously guesses and sometimes exaggerated; one monk’s reported death toll for one particular city, in fact, was more than what its recorded population showed. But it’s not inaccurate to guess that one third of the European population died during the pestilence; towns disappeared, families completely died out. Farms went untended because the farmers and their families died; there were also undoubtedly consequential deaths, not from the plague but because of it; young children whose parents had died starved to death, etc. Naturally they thought it was the end of the world, a punishment from God for sin; and the fourteenth century, which Ms. Tuchman describes as “calamitous”, was certainly ripe for that kind of belief.

One of the interesting things to me about this current pandemic is–and this may entirely be because I am not paying attention and my social media is sort of a bubble; but I cannot believe someone would be saying this about the pandemic and no one i know would notice it and be outraged enough to post about it–where are the evangelicals? Where are all those “end times” preachers and ministers and con artists to prey on the fears of their congregation? Why isn’t anyone pointing out that this could actually be the “rapture” where God is calling his own to him? I have seen that some trashbag minister called this God’s punishment for the gays–but it didn’t gain any traction.

Maybe one of the outcomes of this pandemic will be the ending of that nonsense. I rather doubt it, but you know, hope springs eternal.

I did read for a while yesterday–I got further into Ammie Come Home and I read a short story by Harlan Ellison, “On the Downhill Side”, from his collection Deathbird Stories, which I’d originally read years ago, before I moved to New Orleans, and this story is set in New Orleans. Oddly enough, when I opened the ebook in my Kindle app on the iPad (I was actually looking to see if the collection included his Edgar winning “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs”–it does) it was already opened to that story, so I read it, and as always with Ellison, loved it–and while it certainly is brilliantly written, it was written by someone who didn’t live here. I did love the story; like all of Ellison’s stories, the humanity in it was overwhelming and identifiable and relatable. I’ll probably give it, at some point, its own entry here.

And now I am feeling a bit tired, so I am going to go rest for a bit.

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