I’m Real

Reality television goes above-and-beyond to convince the viewers that it’s “real” and “authentic”; but it’s kind of weird to me to think that people can actually go about their day-to-day lives with a camera crew following them, constantly having to set up and break down, without that having some sort of impact on their behavior and relationships with each other. In the case of the Real Housewives shows, obviously they aren’t being followed 24/7 the way The Real World always claimed they did with their casts…which was exposed for bullshit to me when MTV was filming The Real World: New Orleans and they lived in the Bellefort mansion on St. Charles Avenue–essentially in my neighborhood. Periodically I would see a group of them–young people I assumed were the cast–walking around in the neighborhood with a camera crew following them on their way to someplace they were going to film…which meant that obviously they weren’t being filmed 24/7 as the camera men were not filming them as they walked. That breaking of the fourth wall for me was kind of a spoiler in some ways (I never really spent a great deal of thought on the show or how it was made; if I had spent a minute or two thinking about it rather than just blindly accepting what I was told I would have realized how ludicrous the 24/7 filming thing they claimed actually was–but I never cared enough to question anything). After that fourth wall was broken for me, I wasn’t as into The Real World as I had been previously; plus, the longer the show went on, the more it became focused on blackout drinking, sex, and violence–none of which I particularly wanted to watch, really.

When Bravo–which used to be a more higher-minded channel showing Inside the Actor’s Studio as well as syndicated repeats of Law and Order and The West Wing–chose to capitalize on the success of their first forays into reality television with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and the great reality competition shows Project Runway (we were obsessed with it) and Top Chef by going for something a little more Real World-ish with The Real Housewives of Orange County, I wasn’t particularly interested. As Sonja Morgan was told by Bethenny Frankel in one memorable encounter on the New York franchise, “it’s a cheater brand”–something branded similarly to something vastly more successful as an attempt to piggy-back on that success; in this case, they were copying ABC’s breakout hit Desperate Housewives AND The OC. The ubiquitous previews–run constantly during the syndicated repeats we watched as well as the competition programs–did nothing to inspire me to want to watch even a little bit. The show was successful enough to spawn another franchise in New York, and then another in Atlanta. These shows became part of the public consciousness, really; you couldn’t get away from them, particularly if you watched anything else on Bravo–you began to learn what some of the women’s names were; began to know who was friends with whom and who couldn’t stand who; who was fighting with who and why and so on. Sometimes on weekends while Paul slept on the couch and I sat in my chair reading a book or revising something I was working on, I would just put the channel on Bravo because they always ran marathons on the weekends–whether it was The West Wing, Law and Order, Project Runway or a Housewives franchise–primarily because I always need some sort of noise in the background whenever I do anything. Occasionally Paul would wake up and watch for a few minutes, or I would look up and watch for a while, slowly figuring out what was actually going on with the show, but not interested enough to watch as they aired or become heavily involved. Paul and I actually started watching Atlanta when it started airing–we were drawn in by previews featuring NeNe Leakes, who was hilarious–but I wasn’t very comfortable with it, to be honest; my liberal white guilt made me wonder whether this was a kind of “look at the how funny and weird Black women are!” kind of show. I also didn’t like that the first show to feature Black women had a token white woman on it–none of the other shows with all white casts ever added a minority to the mix; why couldn’t Black women have a show that was all about Black women without needing a white woman to round out the cast? And I was definitely not a fan of Kim Zolciak, so we gradually stopped watching regularly; after all, there was always a marathon going to be aired at some point on a weekend.

I also gave Beverly Hills a whirl when it first aired, primarily because I remembered Kim Richards from her days as a child actress and wanted to see her as an adult. Seeing what she’d become was a bit of a shock, but I watched that entire first season as it aired in amazement, falling in love with Lisa Vanderpump (as so many did) and kind of liking Camille Grammer. She was a bit unfiltered and came across as a very spoiled, privileged white woman…but she was fun to watch and I couldn’t stand Kyle Richards, who was her primary antagonist. But I stopped watching when the show became too dark in the second season, dealing with spousal abuse of one of the cast-members and her husband’s eventual suicide.

A little too real, frankly.

But some friends got me to start watching New York again as it aired in a later season, and this time, I embraced the lunacy and the madness, seeing it for what it was: entertainment. Sure, there was an element of people being rewarded for behaving badly, and whether the madness I was watching was authentic and real, filmed as it occurred, or was “produced” really didn’t matter. I didn’t need to see how the cheese was made, nor did I care; but as I started watching the others so I could talk about them with my friends, dissecting characters and behaviors, I began to realize that these shows were the nighttime soaps of this new age; addictive shows about people with money behaving badly that we talked about (I used to watch Dynasty with a huge group of friends, every Wednesday night: Bong Hits with the Carringtons and the Colbys). Each new edition/franchise of the show was uniquely different from the others; some I never got into (DC, Miami) and others I watched religiously (New York, Atlanta, Beverly Hills), and others I’d keep up with generally (Orange County, Potomac)–my viewing habits for the ones I didn’t watch religiously eventually evolved into simply watching the reunions–which essentially summed up the highs and lows of the season without all the filler.

But I also became interested in watching from a sociological point of view as well; it wasn’t just entertainment, the shows actually provided all kinds of looks into things like group dynamics, how some minor understanding could become blown completely out of proportion, how betrayals of trust are difficult to come back from with a friend, and watching how these women’s evolution was potentially altered, even contaminated, by exposure on camera to a wide audience. Success on the shows might lead to success away from the cameras, but primarily in business more than anything else; these shows were not a jumping off-point into any kind of scripted acting, other than stunt casting on Broadway in shows very late in their run (see: NeNe Leakes, Cinderella; Erika Jayne, Chicago). Bethenny Frankel, seen as the primary success story to arise from the shows (I’ve never cared for her, to be honest), has never managed to translate her popularity as a Housewife into anything successful that wasn’t linked, in some ways, to her original show (her talk show failed, her ripoff of The Apprentice for HBO also failed); and like Trump, her business is really now just licensing the “Skinnygirl” label to other companies marketing products since she sold the alcohol company for a lot of money to Jim Beam years ago.

This interest eventually, as always, evolved into fiction for me. I had always been interested in writing a Scotty book rooted in a season of a Real World-type show filming here; that gradually evolved into my own version of the Housewives shows, The Grande Dames. That eventually worked its way into Royal Street Reveillon, which might be one of my personal favorite Scotty books. I still do watch New York, although I’ve had to back away from Beverly Hills because I cannot stand to see alleged criminal conspirator and ruthless narcissist Erika Girardi on my television; I feel that giving them that extra streaming view somehow condones the fact they didn’t fire her and continue to give her a platform to spin her lies and evade prosecution and restitution.

So, I was very interested when I saw this book talked about on one of the Facebook fan pages I belong to:

As a reward for the procedure the other day, I decided to download this, and in my exhausted state Thursday evening, I started reading it on my Kindle.

If you’re a fan of the shows, you will definitely enjoy this. Essentially, it’s an oral history, with Quinn interviewing not only actual Housewives but also members of production and people from the network about the casts, things that happened on the show, and the controversies. It’s fascinating; production and the network people are always very quick to justify their own questionable behavior in the actions they did or did not take when something bad was happening in front of the cameras (which was to be expected). What was truly interesting to me was the women themselves, and their commentary on their castmates, and the absolute zero fucks they give about lifting the curtain and letting us all see how the sausage was made. What’s particularly weird, though, is you do find yourself wondering–just as you do when you watch the shows–how much of it is real and how much of it is the women either covering their own asses or staying in “character” from the shows; Sherée Whitfield makes absolutely no bones about how much she loathes NeNe Leakes…and actually, nobody spoken to from the Atlanta cast, past or present, says anything nice about her other than she makes good TV. (Likewise, New Jersey castmates are very quick to point out that cast-mates Teresa and Melissa, sisters-in-law, still very much hate each other despite the “reconciliation” for the cameras.)

But again, are they just playing a part still, or are their answers authentic? It’s hard to say. I do think some of the former cast members who are bitter about their experiences (looking at you, Carole Radziwell and Heather Thomsen) are being honest, since they have nothing to lose; the ones who are still on their shows perhaps not so much. (Props to Teresa Guidice, too; she literally is who she appears to be, both on television and in this book–so either she’s very good at playing “Teresa” to the point of staying in character all the time, or she basically is that person. I’m not sure she’s a good enough actress to pull off a performance, though.)

Reading the book was a lot of fun, though, and I think if you are a fan of these shows, you’ll also enjoy it. I greatly enjoyed reading it, and it also reads, as oral histories tend to do, very quickly. Does it actually give the reader an accurate view behind the scenes, or any insight into who these women really are off-camera and in their own lives? I don’t know, and that, I guess, is part of the fun; it’s a very good extension of the shows for fans.

I have recently begun to wonder about whether I should continue to watch these shows. I go back and forth between embracing the enjoyment I get from watching (there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure; we should never feel guilty about finding joy in anything in life; one of the producers even says towards the beginning, that guilty pleasure thing pisses me off because it’s always directed at things women enjoy–a man can sit in front of the television all day watching football yet no one calls the NFL a “guilty pleasure”–which is a very good fucking point) and wondering if I am part of a system that glorifies and rewards bad behavior. do the shows demean women, make them look bad and infantile and childish?

Reading this book gave me no answers other than I should continue to enjoy what I enjoy without spending a lot of time questioning or over-analyzing both myself and my motivations. I also don’t care if people judge me for anything I get enjoyment from; after all, I get judged by people for my sexuality and I really don’t give two shits about the people who do that, either.

But if you don’t watch the shows, I wouldn’t suggest or recommend you read this book; none of it will make any sense to you once they start talking about what happened during the seasons and the conflicts/relationships between the women.

Keep on Loving You

My friend Laura often says there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure; that we should embrace anything and everything that provides us with entertainment because life is so damned fucking hard that we such take our joys and pleasures wherever we can find them and to hell with feeling guilt about any of it. It’s a wonderful theory that I’ve tried to adapt, but yet….somehow my reading and viewing choices inevitably make me feel guilty about some of them. I mean, when most writers-to-be were reading Faulkner and Hemingway and Barry Hannah and that other one–ah, yes, Raymond Carver–with an eye to Writing The Great American Novel, I was reading Harold Robbins and James Michener and Sidney Sheldon and any number of “trashy” novels.

My tastes have always skewed low, I’m afraid.

Take, for example, the Real Housewives shows.

Yet…something has changed.

I used to watch all the shows religiously, but finally I hated Teresa Guidice so much–and the fact that she kept her job after going to jail–pushed me away from watching New Jersey. I tired of Nene Leakes and her antics, so put Atlanta on the back burner; never watched Dallas or started Salt Lake City, and while I enjoyed Potomac, never could seem to remind myself to watch. I had eventually gotten to the point where I was only watching two: New York and Beverly Hills, but these current seasons of each have me wondering why do I still bother?

I bailed on the previous season of Beverly Hills before it finished–I had little to no interest in watching Brandi Glanville’s desperate attempt to gain relevance and get back on the show by slandering Denise Richards, and watching the rest of the cast gleefully torturing Ms. Richards over something that could have actually affected her custody struggle with her insane ex, Charlie Sheen was really not the kind of trash television I enjoy watching. I also really started hating Lisa Rinna, whom I’d always enjoyed before, to the point where all I want to do when I see her face is change the channel–let alone how grating the sound of her voice has become.

And while I did watch New York all the way to its bitter end last season, I found myself not really caring about their return this season, and yes, it took me awhile to get interested in even giving them another shot. I was actually of the mindset that, with all the things going on in the world and the pandemic and all, giving these women any more of my time was a waste, and have begun to think that the entire idea of these shows has run its course. In a time where a pandemic is killing people, anti-vaxxer ignorance is making things worse, and the country is being ripped apart over a significant part of the nation’s inability to look beyond themselves and have empathy for people being systemically oppressed…it’s hard to shut that reality off and enjoy the “reality” of spoiled, privileged women wasting their lives arguing over petty bullshit–particularly ones that are so self-absorbed to such a high level of narcissism that it really begs, if not for them to be institutionalized, but at the very least kept away from other human beings for the protection of society as a whole.

And that bothers me. Why has my opinion about these shows changed so dramatically? Is it the pandemic and all the racial reckoning we’ve been dealing with as a country and as a society? Or have I simply outgrown them?

It’s also occurred to me since I wrote about them in a (very thinly) veiled way in my last Scotty book–renaming the series The Grande Dames–that I can really no longer justify watching anymore. I definitely try to subscribe to Laura’s mentality about guilty pleasures, but as I have watched this season’s episodes of both shows, I find myself bored and not enjoying them so much. All shows tend to have a natural tendency to become less interesting the longer they run, and reality shows are no different from their scripted brothers and sisters. These shows are rather like soaps–that comparison has been made before by a lot of television and cultural critics (including the horrible Camille Paglia, which proves the old adage about stopped clocks)–which is why soaps regularly wrote characters out and brought in new ones to try to stay relevant and fresh. The night time soaps eventually ran out of steam–popular characters couldn’t be let go, and how do you keep the villains and heroes fresh when they continually have to make the same mistakes, over and over again, as the stories eventually end up repeating themselves?

I do think that’s what is happening, in my mind, with the Real Housewives…they’ve run their course, the long-running characters’ awful behavior and mistakes get repeated, over and over again, with every new cast member, and it’s hard to watch people behaving the same way for decades and never really learning and growing from the experiences. I guess that isn’t why people watch these shows–for character growth and development–the key to their popularity is how awful the women actually are, and how lacking in self-awareness…but having spent most of my adulthood shedding toxic people from my life as soon they make their toxicity known, it’s weird to watch shows for years about people who are primarily toxic at their core, with few, if any, redeeming qualities. But a show about a bunch of lovely women with money who are decent and do good things with their money wouldn’t be interesting to watch, either. It’s the conflict we watch for, I suppose, and the bad behavior, and deciding who’s right and who’s wrong and being entertained. And sometimes these shows are painful to watch as they go to really dark places occasionally–as I was watching New York yesterday, I found myself thinking about one character–who is clearly in a very bad place and when she drinks too much she blacks out and her behavior is horrifying–and wondering why no one in production, or no one else in the cast, is stepping up and trying to get her the help she so obviously needs?

But this out-of-control behavior drives ratings, I suppose, and that leads to the next question, is it okay to watch these women, who hunger for fame and attention, debase themselves and allow themselves to be debased for our entertainment?

I think that is what is driving my current discomfort with watching–and also driving why I am questioning having ever started watching them in the first place.

I also suppose as long as I continue to watch I can’t really criticize the shows, but I suppose I can critique them as well as the reasons why I watch them.

I also have a real problem with this season’s Beverly Hills primary story; the Erica Girardi/Erika Jayne “was she complicit in her husband’s fraud” story, playing out in real life as we watch how it played out when the story first broke…doesn’t sit well with me. Her decision to continue being the cold-hearted snake she plays on the show on social media–with not a bit of concern for the victims of her husband’s fraud; instead claiming martyrdom/victimhood for herself–will inevitably turn up in court when it comes to that; I cannot imagine what the fuck her lawyers are thinking letting her still have access to her own social media or not advising her to keep her fucking mouth shut while in front of the cameras is, at the very least, legal malpractice. If she even showed the least, smallest bit of concern for her husband’s victims…as opposed to making it all about her and what she’s “lost” (sorry your Sugar Daddy can’t steal more money to buy you jewels with)…I could be sympathetic….but yeah, go fuck yourself, grifter.

But given the state of our society and culture, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the grifting Girardis get away with their crimes. But if there’s no reckoning of any kind for her, and she remains on the show…I won’t be watching in the future.

At least the Giudices on New Jersey were white collar criminals who just didn’t pay their taxes. The Girardis–and Jen Shah on Salt Lake City–belong behind bars.

And maybe–maybe it’s time we stopped celebrated bad people behaving badly on television. I don’t know. But I am terribly disappointed with the producers for seeing ratings, instead of suffering. IMAGINE being one of Tom Girardi’s victims and watching her play victim? It turns MY stomach, and I am not one of their victims.

I don’t know. Maybe I can find joy in these shows again. But for now…I really don’t see how I can justify watching another season of either.

When I Grow Up

Saturday morning and yesterday was lovely, as we slowly begin counting down the last days of my fifties. Hurray!

Yesterday was actually kind of lovely. I had my spa day (in full transparency, that means I got a back wax) which I enjoyed (at some point in time I will discuss how I feel about body hair, particularly that which grows on one’s back), got my prescription, got Scooter’s insulin syringes, got the mail, made groceries, and got phô (AT LAST), and the phô (from Lilly’s Cafe on Magazine) was truly magnificent. I got home around two thirty; it was a weird weather day in New Orleans, where the sun was shining in parts of the city and there was a downpour in others, along with thunder and lightning; which enabled me to experience all the vagaries of a summer day’s weather in the city in August over the course of two hours. After the errands were completed and my phô bowl was empty, I spent the rest of the day relaxing and organizing and cleaning–yes, yes, I know, but organizing and cleaning (like the LSU 2019 football season) is my happy place. I wound up not reading much, nor doing any writing, but I managed to get a lot done. I am still not as organized as I would like to be, as I think I should be, but I have three more days without work pressure to get through, and so while I am going to spend some time writing and reading over the next three days, I also want to finish getting organized. I’ve been so scattered and disorganized for so long–really, since the Great Data Disaster of 2018–that getting that particular act together has been enormously helpful, and I think if I actually can go ahead and get completely organized, that will make my getting everything done that I need to get done finished that much easier.

I am going to spend some time this morning with The Other Black Girl. I have to get the mail today–I am expecting some things–after which I’m planning on braving the West Bank to do some box store shopping (the traffic over there is always horrible, even on the best of days; and now that I am thinking about it some more, perhaps I should just wait and go on Monday; it’s not pressing. I can just get the mail today, really, and pick up a few things at the corner Walgreens–which I now think might be the best option? We’ll see how I feel).

But I got all my Chlorine research organized–I went through my journal (the most recent one) last night and marked the pages where I brainstormed the book; I need to do that to several more of the last ones, actually)–and I also have a secret project which I look forward to telling you about, Constant Reader; I know it’s disappointing on some levels, but I am having to push writing the next Scotty, Mississippi River Mischief, to the first quarter of next year. I also managed to get some other things organized; I need to do something about these boxes of files under my desk for one thing, and in looking through the stuff in my filing cabinet, I also realized that a lot of the stuff in there could be shifted into boxes and moved up into the attic. I do have the boxes….and I am also thinking it may be time to do another book purge, in order to drop off some boxes on this coming Thursday to the library sale.

In other words, I am looking forward to a typical Saturday around the Lost Apartment. I do need to get to the gym today (I didn’t go yesterday) and will be going again on Monday rather than Sunday; but I also have to get really started on the edits of #shedeservedit if I am going to get those finished by the end of the month. The fact that I have absolutely no desire to do it is of course indicative of how much I need to do it and how much I will actually enjoy doing it once I get started going on them. I also need to finish the second draft of “The Sound of Snow Falling”, and what better time to do that than this weekend? I love the new computer and it’s so much easier to work on than the old one was; but I best be using the hell out of it now that I spent the money on it. I’m still a bit in awe of it–the picture quality is so good it’s like having another television for the kitchen (I went ahead and watched the latest episode of Ted Lasso on here last night while Paul worked on a grant–I know, but the great thing about Ted Lasso is rewatching isn’t an ordeal, and this last episode, a Christmas episode airing in August, was just absolutely perfect and made me tear up several times as well as laugh out loud; I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to do a Christmas episode/movie/book of any kind any more without it being heavy-handed and cheesy…but I need to stop ever doubting Ted Lasso; the show is always a joy and those twenty Emmy nominations, especially those for the cast, are extremely well-deserved)–and the sound and picture is amazing. That means I can watch football games in here this fall while cleaning and/or doing other things…which is heavenly.

And yes I am well aware of the fact that the honeymoon period will end soon….but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the fuck out of it while it’s still happening.

I also got caught up on my Real Housewives watching. I had cut back to just watching the two I started with (New York and Beverly Hills), but these aren’t good seasons for either; and just watched the Erika Jayne/Girardi divorce/criminal investigation/civil suits play out makes me a bit uncomfortable. I don’t have much sympathy for either her or her husband–you can deny all you want to, but settlement money for victims disappearing means it went somewhere, and one thing so many people in this country don’t understand is you can still be punished for profiting from a crime even if you didn’t know you were profiting from a crime. I don’t see how she thinks she can escape financial liability–possibly a sympathetic judge and jury would spare her from jail time–but it’s difficult to watch her excuses and her self-pity; she has no tears or empathy for her husband’s victims. Rather, it’s all about her and what she’s going through; and frankly, every time she cries me me me me I think to myself lock this bitch up and throw away the key. So, between the snooze-fest that is this seasons New York and the real life criminality being exposed on Beverly Hills–and being coddled–might have me finally cutting the cord with these two shows. I have no desire to watch Dallas, but have heard good things about both Potomac and Salt Lake City (which also is filming during the real-life criminal exposure of a cast member)…but I also kind of wonder if these shows haven’t already run their course? Society and the culture have experienced a significant shift over the last four years….and maybe the time for shows like this is past.

And on that note, I am going to get another cup of coffee and spend some more time with The Other Black Girl, which is truly terrific. Have a lovely August Saturday, Constant Reader–and I will check in with you tomorrow, if not later.

Kiss on My List

Today is one of those days in which I’ll be running around all day and feeling scattered before I finally can come home and relax at last. I have an eye appointment out in Metairie–I really need new glasses; my eyes have gotten so bad that the ones I have now just do not work as well as they should, which makes me terribly uncomfortable about driving and so forth–and then errands all over the place. I also have boxes and boxes of condom packs to take by the office, so I can get them out of the house; I was really productive yesterday and may have broken my condom-packing record while watching In the Heat of the Night (the Oscar winning film, not the television series based on it) and then catching up on The Real Housewives franchises that I still watch. (I have some ambivalent feelings about these shows, but will discuss that at greater length when I have more time to spend on writing an entry then I do this morning.) The movie was interesting to watch, and I have some very deep thoughts about that as well; but I will say for now that they did a really excellent job of capturing small town/rural Southern areas of the time and what they were like…and they could have just as easily filmed that movie in the area of Alabama where I am from.

If you are a film fan, I do highly recommend Pictures at a Revolution by Mark Harris, in which he examines the five films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 1967–the year In the Heat of the Night won–and how those five vastly different films were representative of the enormous cultural and societal shifts going on in the country at the time. It’s fascinating. (The other nominees were Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Bonnie and Clyde, Dr. Dolittle, and The Graduate.)

I still haven’t made my to-do list yet; that’s one of the things I want to get done today; at least one for the weekend that I can revise for next week, and then I want to get back into the habit of doing one every week, knowing that there will be some weeks where I get it all done, weeks where I only get some of it done, and weeks when I won’t get any of it done. I am trying to stay focused and I am also trying to be easier on myself going forward; no more feeling like a failure when I don’t get as much done as I need or want to, no more Imposter Syndrome, no more allowing myself to be easily tripped into dark places that I really need to not go to anymore. It’s strange to be almost sixty and still trying to grow and rewire myself; I would have thought years ago that by now I would have everything figured out. But I don’t–and I don’t think anyone ever really does, to be honest. I also need to remember that I am not perfect, I am human, and humans will always make mistakes…and the thing is to not let the mistakes take you somewhere dark and self-abusive, but to correct them the best way you can and learn from them and not repeat them–which is part of the issue I am having with the Real Housewives shows, I think (but more on that at a later date, like tomorrow).

It’s gray outside this morning–it rained off and on yesterday, mostly from the late afternoon on–and I will probably get soaked at some point while I run my errands; it’s inevitable, really–but hopefully traffic won’t be too bad.

And on that note–as you can tell, I still haven’t quite figured out what I want this blog to be going forward–I am going to call it quits this morning and head back into the spice mines. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

Teardrops on My Guitar

Saturday, and the first blog entry of the three day Labor Day weekend.

Labor Day.

September.

Sep-fucking-tember.

I think the kindest thing anyone can say about this year is that it hasn’t been a pleasant experience for most people, and putting it that way is perhaps a bit of a stretch. I do feel bad for people who are actually having good things happen to them in this year of utter misery and repeated horror; as I said recently, this is why we  need to get our joy where we can find it. Adaptability is one strength (supposedly) of our species, and I do see people adapting left and right; on the other hand, I also see others desperately clinging to the past and resisting adaptation most stubbornly. This has been quite a year on every level–and it has been interesting seeing how people have adapted, and how people are handling it all so differently.

This is why it surprises me when I see authors talking about how they are going to handle the pandemic in their work–or rather, how they are not going to address the pandemic in their work. It’s so global and so intense and it’s affected everyone, changing how we do things and how we live our lives, from the most mundane things like picking up prescriptions to grocery shopping to going out to eat, to the big things like jobs and house payments and school attendance and daycare. It has affected every part of our lives, so how can we ignore it or pretend like it never happened? It’s very similar to the Katrina situation New Orleans writers found ourselves in afterwards; we couldn’t pretend like the city hadn’t been destroyed or that we’d all been through a horrible trauma. But when I, for example, started writing my post-Katrina work, we were over a year into the recovery and so I could write about what it had been like, rather then trying to figure out what it was going to be like. Pandemic writing, of course, will inevitably date your work, just like Katrina divided my career into before and after. I’m still, frankly, trying to decide how to deal with it in my own work–or if I even want to continue writing the series or not.

And let’s be honest: my first and thus far only attempt to write pandemic fiction, started in the first weeks of the quarantine/shutdown, quickly became dated; I am very glad I didn’t finish it because a lot of the work would have been wasted. I do want to finish the story, though, see if anyone wants to publish it.

Today is going to be my catch-up day; I am going to try to get a chapter revised today, but my primary concern is getting things caught up; I want to finish reading Little Fires Everywhere (I really got sucked into it for a few hours last night) and get started on The Coyotes of Carthage, and I also think I might spend some time today with some short story reading–that Sara Paretsky collection keeps giving me side-eye whenever I sit down in my easy chair–and of course, there’s always electronic files to sort and clean up as well as physical ones. The house really needs some serious cleaning, frankly, and I know I’ll feel much better once that chore is actually accomplished.

Then again, who knows? This could easily turn into another lazy day.

Yesterday during condom-packing time, I watched the season finale of Real Housewives of New York (Dorinda’s recently firing makes a lot more sense now) and moved on to the next on my Cynical 70’s Film Festival, All the President’s Men. To digress for a moment, can I just say how fucking ridiculously good-looking Robert Redford was? I know, I know, commenting on the almost insane beauty of Redford isn’t like anything new, but good lord. Dustin Hoffman was also never considered to be particularly good-looking, but he looks pretty good in this movie and isn’t completely overshadowed by Redford, which would have been expected. It’s a very good film, from top to bottom; everyone in the cast is superb (it was also interesting to see so many people in bit roles that would later become stars on television–Polly Holiday, Stephen Collins, Meredith Baxter Birney), and it also made me miss the heyday of the thriller featuring the intrepid, dogged, never say die investigative journalist. This is something we’ve lost with the rise of the Internet, 24 hours news channels, and the death of print: with magazines and newspapers either shuttering or cutting back staff, it’s really no longer realistic to have the crusading journalist as the heroic center of your book or movie; as I watched the show I kept thinking about the old Ed Asner series Lou Grant, and whether it was streaming anywhere.

All the President’s Men, of course, is the film version of the book Carl Bernstein and Robert Woodward wrote about their investigation into the Watergate break-in in 1972, which was the tiny thread that was pulled and eventually brought down the Nixon presidency and almost destroyed the Republican party in the process. I read the book initially when I was in college–it was required reading for my Intro to Journalism class (I was torn between majoring in journalism or English; being unaware that I could have gone to college somewhere and majored in Creative Writing–but actually, I am very glad I never did that)–and it was my first real experience with understanding, for the first time, what Watergate was all about. It happened in real time during the course of my life, but I was also between the ages of 11 and 13 from the first reports of the break-in and the resignation of a president, and so I didn’t really understand what was going on and only had a vague idea as it infiltrated every aspect of the culture beyond the news. It certainly gave rise to the concept of conspiracy theories and the belief that the government couldn’t be trusted–which gave rise to Reaganism in the 1980’s–but reading the book was my first baby-step forward to shaking off the ideology with which I had been raised. I had never seen the film, and so it really seemed to be perfect for my Cynical 70’s Film Festival…although it was difficult for me to get up the desire to actually queue it up and click play, frankly; the utter failure of the 4th Estate to do its job properly in this century plays no small part in why we are where we are today. But it’s a good film, and it also depicts the back-room aspect of journalism–the battle for column inches, the struggle for the front page, the competition with other newspapers and television–which is really kind of a lost world now. (I had always wanted to write about a newspaper–which is partly why I made Paige a journalist, morphing her gradually into a magazine editor.) I will say watching this movie now made me think about writing about a modern-day journalist; the struggle between the print and on-line copy, etc. If I only had more time.

It’s also very sad to know that if Watergate was happening now, the story would be killed by an editor, and we’d never know the truth.

We also finished watching Outcry last night, which was terrific, and the latest episode of Lovecraft Country (it dropped early because of the holiday weekend), and its continued brilliance is really something. We also saw the preview for Raised by Wolves, the new Ridley Scott series for HBO MAX, and it also looks terrific. A new season of The Boys also just dropped on Prime; so there’s a wealth of things for us to watch, and I rediscovered (oops) my Showtime watch list last night, which also has a cornucopia of delights on it.

And on that note, tis time for me to head into ye olde spice mines for the day. May you all have a lovely, lovely day today.

IMG_4205

Epiphany

Friday, and day two of a Gregalicious long birthday weekend.

The actual birthday yesterday wasn’t too bad. I ran by the office and got my prescriptions, ran to the post office and got the mail, and then stopped at the Tchoupitoulas Rouse’s to make groceries. Of course, when I left the house it was sunny and humid, and by the time I made it to the Rouse’s parking lot it was pouring rain–like always whenever I go make groceries. Heavy sigh. But then I lugged everything in, and by the time I had everything put away I was completely exhausted. I wound up hanging out in my easy chair, getting caught up on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and then Paul and I started watching something neither of us really cared for–a comedy series, which seemed to think bigotry with a smidgin of homophobia is still uproariously funny and should be played for laughs. Needless to say, I didn’t find it engaging or particularly funny. It was a high school thing, and after watching Never Have I Ever, Sex Education, and various other teen comedies that didn’t need to stoop to such sophomoric levels to be engaging, funny, and charming–how this other shit got on the air is a mystery to me. We won’t be watching any more of that, believe me. I was pretty tired for some reason last evening, so I retired early and found myself waking up terribly late this morning–much later than I usually get up (oooh, I slept in a WHOLE EXTRA HOUR, alert the media! Then again, given my occasional bouts of insomnia, this was a quite lovely development.)

So, overall it wasn’t a bad day. I am going to have my scroungy day today, where I don’t shower or shave and spend the whole day in dirty yet oddly comfortable sweats that should be going into the laundry but I’m willing to wear one more time first–oh, don’t sneer. We’re all basically slobs at heart, and imagine how disgusting we’d allow ourselves to get if we didn’t have to clean up. Oh, is that just me? Never mind then. Although I am also thinking I should probably shower to just wake up, if not for hygienic purposes. And while it is Friday and day two of Gregalicious Long Birthday Weekend, I fully intend to keep up the Friday tradition of laundering the bed linens. I am going to spend some time being sluggish today–I want to spend some time with Lovecraft Country, and I am weeks behind on The Real Housewives of New York–but emails and so forth have been piling up during my exile from doing anything of consequence yesterday, and so I am going to have to start doing something about that today, little as I want to. The Lost Apartment is also a dreadful mess.

There are two tropical storms out there, with another tropical something forming off the coast of Africa. Laura has already formed, and her track has New Orleans on the outer edge of her Cone of Uncertainty; the other in the Gulf, forming off the coast of the Yucatan, will be named Marco when and if he becomes anything. Currently both are slated to hit the Gulf Coast merely as Category 1’s, but those are no picnic, and I do hope they all miss Puerto Rico (isn’t it odd how no one ever talks about, or reports on, the Puerto Rican recovery?).  Interestingly enough, both storm tracks show that they will hit landfall on the Gulf Coast within hours of each other, and each, as I said, have New Orleans on their outside track. So, Laura could be hitting anywhere from New Orleans to Pensacola at around two in the morning on Wednesday, while Marco could be coming ashore at around the same time anywhere from Corpus Christi to New Orleans. 

Talk about a one-two punch. And if ever there was a base for a Scotty story, simultaneous hurricanes would be it–although I do think Tim Dorsey did this in one of this Florida novels, and if I recall correctly, the eyes converged somewhere over central Florida. As I have, in recent years, come to a greater appreciation of Carl Hiassen (I have a PDF of his next one in my iPad; and I really should read more of his work), I should give Dorsey another go. Back in the day, the genre I’ve come to call “Florida wacky” never appealed to me, but once when I was on a work trip to DC I finished reading all the books I’d brought with me and went to a nearby Barnes and Noble, and Hiassen’s Bad Monkey was on the sale table for $2.99 in hardcover and I thought, oh, why not, and bought it–and couldn’t put it down. It also made me laugh out loud numerous times, and I went on to read several more of his with great appreciation–so perhaps I should give Dorsey another go. Dave Barry, the columnist, also wrote a couple of novels that fit into this category, and I know I read his first and really enjoyed it. 

Florida–at least the panhandle–played a part in my childhood and shaping me as a person; I also lived in Tampa for four years as an adult, and I have spent quite a lot of time in Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and Miami over the years. I had originally intended to set Timothy in Miami; I eventually went with Long Island because same-sex marriage was legalized there long before it became national, and I didn’t really feel quite as comfortable writing about Miami as I did about Long Island. It also made more sense to set it on Long Island–although I found the perfect house on one of the Miami islands to base the mansion on. I eventually had my main character meet his future spouse in Miami–South Beach, to be exact–but it really made more sense for it to be based in New York City and Long Island and the Hamptons. I’ve written a little bit about Florida in my fiction; “Cold Beer No Flies” was set in the panhandle, and I have innumerable other ideas that would be set either in the panhandle or my fictional version of Tampa (Bay City), but New Orleans is still my center and still where I inevitably set everything I write.

I’ve always wanted to send Scotty on an adventure in the panhandle–Redneck Riviera Rumble–and perhaps I still might. There’s an amorphous idea in my head for such a tale, which would involve Frank’s retirement from professional wrestling and his final show somewhere in the panhandle, sex trafficking, and drug smuggling; if I can ever pull it all together, you can bet I will be writing it.

And on that note, I need to get to work being a slug. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

 

 

I Want a Dog

I don’t actually want a dog. I love dogs–always have–but our apartment just isn’t big enough to add a dog, and we don’t have a yard, either. Plus our work schedules are so all over the map and erratic we could never get on a proper “walk the dog” schedule for one, which isn’t fair to the dog. (However, I do love other people’s dogs. Dogs and cats always seem to gravitate toward me as well.) We never intended to even have a cat; we had a mouse when we lived in the carriage house and the advice we got from everyone was, simply, “get a cat and the problem is solved.” That’s how we acquired Skittle; and of course, after his early and untimely passing we barely went two weeks before adopting Scooter…and of course, over the years we’ve fed and befriended any number of outside strays. Currently, Tiger has been around the longest; Simba is more recent, and there’s also a tuxedo hanging around out there that’s still too timid to come close. (He did let me pet him the other day, but then bolted when I put some food out for him.) But Paul and I are the cat whisperers, and soon the tuxedo will be named and part of the herd out there.

And you got to love a tuxedo cat. Especially when their white paws look like they are wearing little white gloves!

Friday, and it’s really Memorial Day weekend eve. I am looking forward to three lovely days off, during which I have a shit ton of things to get done. This week hasn’t been a good one for me regarding energy and focus; I’m never quite sure why that is, or why some weeks I am completely useless and another week I’m highly functional and productive–here’s hoping this weekend is one of those highly productive times, because I need to catch up from this past week’s uselessness. Paul wasn’t home last evening; he was out visiting (and maintaining social distancing) a couple of friends, so I finished watching The Story of Soaps, moved on the catch up on Real Housewives (both Beverly Hills and New York), watched another episode of The Dark Side of the Ring (this one detailing the sad and tragic death of Owen Hart), and then finally went to bed early. I had a very good night’s sleep; I feel very rested and awake this morning, which is a very good thing, obviously. Today is syringe access Friday, which means standing in the parking lot in the horrible heat and humidity for five hours, and I am also getting fitted for PPE this morning–our STI clinic appears to be reopening now on June 1, so I have to wear PPE in order to see my clients. I had to fill out a bizarre questionnaire preparatory to being fitted this morning–some of the questions I simply couldn’t answer; I assumed it was a generic questionnaire used for both PPE and HAZMAT gear, based on some of the questions–and I have a bit of trepidation about this now I didn’t have before; but that’s entirely because of the questionnaire. I’ll definitely let you know how the fitting goes, because it’s going to be a completely new and different experience for me.

The heat and humidity are coming back, and of course, there’s already been a named storm, prior to the official opening of hurricane season on June 1. I am trying not to be overly concerned about this year’s hurricane season, quite frankly–how do you have an evacuation under these incredibly trying circumstances–and so that’s going to be some more added stress to the already hot and humid climes we will be dealing with.

I also don’t have a lot of confidence on how a major storm coming in this year will be handled, from prep and evacuations to the aftermath.

Well, there’s a cheery thought for the morning..

And on that note, back to the spice mines. Hope you all have the Friday you deserve! (PS The tuxedo cat just came through the fence!)

IMG_1090

Free Ride

So, where were we?

I managed to finish that enormous volunteer project, with lots of thanks due to the others who worked on it with me; it’s so lovely to not have to worry about being organized because you are working with the “ur organizer” of all time, frankly.

Whew. I do know some pretty amazing people, you know?

I need to get started revising the Kansas book, but have just been so worn out and tired lately…it’s a big deal to finish a draft, a short story, and an enormous volunteer project all at the same time, you know? I now have to write an essay, a short story, and get to revising this manuscript but at the same time…it’s kind of lovely knowing I got all that other shit done.

I also managed to do something to my back yesterday at work–sitting in my chair wrong–and it’s been aching ever since. I used the heating pad last night (using it again this morning) and it’s horrible, of course–I can’t imagine what I did to make it hurt, but then…this is just another one of those lovely surprises about getting older: new aches and pains every day and you don’t know where they came from or why or what caused it.

But my book comes out in less than a week, so I should probably talk about it some more, right?

As I mentioned yesterday, I pretty much only regularly watch The Real Housewives of New York and Beverly Hills. I do keep up with Atlanta, and will check in on Orange County every now and then. I tried both Dallas and Potomac (I never watched DC or Miami), but didn’t get through the first seasons–but I’ve heard they’ve become more entertaining, so might check them out. I’ve not watched New Jersey in a long time; I really gave up on it after Caroline left the show; I know she was problematic to a lot of viewers and she did get on my nerves from time to time–but when she left and the show centered Teresa, I was down with it. While watching these shows, and having my loyalties and allegiances shift over the seasons, as the producers manipulate story-lines and decide what the audience will and won’t see, has been interesting. I’ve also been interested in watching the cultural phenomena around the Real Housewives, and while I rarely (if ever) agree with Camille Paglia, she is also a Housewives fan, and in an interview, when the shows came up, she compared them to soaps, and in particular, the popular prime time soaps of the 1980’s: Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing, etc. It was an interesting comparison, and not one I agreed with immediately, but the more I think about–and the way people talk about the shows–the more I think she was right. The prime time soaps were addictive, considered guilty pleasures no serious viewer would ever watch, and while several of them were driven by strong male leads, the women were centered and usually more interesting. There were never any male characters as interesting as the women on Knots Landing, and Blake might have been the main character on Dynasty, but the real driving force behind the show were the two women main characters, Krystle and Alexis. The housewives appeal to, like the prime time soaps, primarily women and gay male viewers. When I wrote my thesis on daytime soaps in college, one of the cultural impacts I wrote about the shows having was the decline of what was called “women’s pictures”–movies centering women characters and female stars. Whereas Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and many other women were big stars of the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, it was the 1950’s and the rise of television that not only killed the studio system, but also killed off the popular genre of women’s pictures…and I do think that was not only due to television, but because all of daytime television centered, and was focused on, women. Women no longer had to pay money to go lose themselves in a fantasy world focused on strong women facing difficult situations heroically; they could spend all day watching heroic women facing difficult situations–and situations they could relate to more–Monday through Friday. The decline of soaps–both prime time and daytime–created another vacuum, and Bravo and these shows stepped up to fill that void.

There have been already some terrific books centering reality television; Jessica Knoll’s The Favorite Sister was, like her debut novel Luckiest Girl Alive, absolutely fantastic. But as I said, I thought it would be interesting to write my own version of a murder mystery centered on a reality show filmed in New Orleans. I’m fascinated by these people, who are willing to have their lives and interactions be filmed for the entertainment of the masses, be judged for it on social media and in recap columns, and ripped to shreds on message boards and Facebook groups. Some of them use their reality show to promote not only themselves but their businesses–the most famous of these is Bethenny Frankel, who became rich through her various Skinnygirl enterprises, all of which were boosted by her popularity on reality television, and Lisa Vanderpump, who used her reality fame to promote her restaurants in Los Angeles, even getting a spin-off show centered around the staff at one of her restaurants, Vanderpump Rules, which is even more popular than the housewives (I abandoned that show somewhere after season two). I think the Frankel/Vanderpump model is the golden ticket these women are looking for when they agree to be cast; but not everyone is as smart about controlling their image as those two are–nor have the kind of influence on production as they enjoy.

My fascination with these women, and their shows, and who they are and why they would do such a show, gave birth to the idea that eventually became Royal Street Reveillon. I liked the idea of Scotty being a fan, and interacting with the women on the New Orleans show while trying to get to the bottom of a murder…or two, or three. It was also kind of fun to write, frankly, and the older i get and the more I do this, the more important it is to me to enjoy myself while I am doing it.

And on that note, it’s back to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Thursday, Constant Reader.

270551_363631417062585_321017710_n

I’m Doin’ Fine Now

Tuesday! We survived Monday, did we not? That is, ultimately, a reason for celebration.

And–believe it or not, I finished Chapter Eighteen last night, which was incredibly cool. I haven’t worked on Bury Me in Shadows in so long I was beginning to think I was never going back to it.

Huzzah! Go, Greg, go!

They are slowly starting to close the Bonnet Carre Spillway, meaning that the river is beginning to go down, and might soon no longer be in flood stage. As we are ever aware in New Orleans, water is the eternal problem for our sinking city, and we will all sleep a little better knowing the flood is, at long last, receding.

We also finished watching Big Little Lies last night, and I have to say, I enjoyed it and thought it wrapped everything up nicely in a way the first season’s finale did not; which, of course, made the second season necessary. There shouldn’t be a third season; this is all tied up in a nice bow, and there’s no need for a third. It was, in a way, kind of nice seeing the fall-out from the lie they all agreed to tell after the ending of the first season; how the repercussions and fall out from the lie undermined and destroyed their lives in the third season–although blaming the lie for Renata’s troubles, which were solely the fault of her man-boy husband, is a bit much.

I slept deeply and well last night, but unfortunately am still wishing I was still in bed. I’m sleepy and tired, but not from not sleeping well, but rather from getting up too early this morning. It’s of course day 2 of my marathon opening the week each week, and I managed to make it through my entire day yesterday without either getting tired or being tired. This morning I woke up tired. I am hopeful the process of going through my morning ablutions will finish waking me up, and of course, tomorrow I can sleep a little later since I don’t have to be in until later. It’s also pay day, which means pay-the-bills day, which is never particularly pleasant, either.

Of course, when I get home from work tonight I’ll be watching part two of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion. I’m not entirely sure why; I have lost most of my interest in this show–it certainly doesn’t compare to either the New York or Atlanta (and, from what I’m seeing, Potomac) franchises, and I’m not entirely sure why. This past season’s emphasis on a boring storyline, having to do with a failed adoption of a dog and the fallout from the failed adoption, wasn’t particularly interesting, especially when production kept dancing around the reality of the actual situation and tried to force more drama out of it peripherally. Apparently, the show had new producers this season, and it showed; usually the women are at the mercy of production, but this season made it seem that the production was at the mercy of the women. One thing these shows are terribly good at it, though, is switching gears and manipulating the audience; a woman who is incredibly unlikable in one season can come out of another smelling like the proverbial rose, and vice versa. I try very hard not to get too involved in the outer trappings of these shows I watch–the energy expounded in watching the shows and deciding who to like and who not to like, and forming opinions on what I’ve seen, is more than enough time spent on them. I do occasionally like to read the recaps (some of which are absolutely hilarious) and will spend some time reading the comments on the recaps, simply to see how far off base my own opinions are, and to see how differently other people can process the very same thing I’ve watched. That, to me, is the most fascinating part of watching the shows–and it is very similar, as Camille Paglia pointed out (and it galls me to no end to agree with her about anything) the audience involvement with the reality television programs, and the Real Housewives franchises in particular, is very similar with how audiences used to get heavily involved in soap operas. An entire industry built up over soap fandom; the same is happening with the Real Housewives. 

The rise of reality television is also an interesting basis for a study on changes in American popular culture in the twenty-first century, which would make for either a brilliant long-form essay, or even a master’s thesis. (Someone, you are very welcome for this idea.)

Hopefully, tonight I will be able to tear through Chapter Nineteen after spending an hour rolling my eyes at the housewives. Gotta keep scratching things off that list, y’all.

And now back to the spice mines.

IMG_1907

Touch Me in the Morning

Friday morning, and a little under the weather. I’ll spare you the gory details, but my suspicion is it’s a bit of food poisoning, perhaps? Regardless, it’s terribly unpleasant, and hopefully temporary.

I really feel terrible.

Last night after testing all day in the Carevan, I walked back home and started feeling bad; so I just took something to try to settle my stomach and curled up under my blanket to watch the season finale of The Real Housewives of New York and then streamed another episode of Southern Charm New Orleans, which, despite all of its offenses and basic trashiness (what reality show isn’t trashy?), has turned out to be highly addictive. And Jon Moody is rapidly becoming my favorite reality star of all time–he’s extremely good-looking, enormously talented, surprisingly down-to-earth, has an incredible sense of style, and just really comes across as a decent human being and a good friend to his friends. Obviously, this is all a part of the infamous reality show bait-and-switch; in which the producers build someone up to be likable by giving them a great edit, and then in a future season try to make the audience turn by giving them a bad edit–showing the shitty things they do and say rather than leaving them on the cutting room floor as they did when giving them the good edit.

He is also responsible for what be my favorite reality show character appraisal of all time: “Cool ranch doritos.” That alone should earn him a spot in the reality television hall of fame.

I managed to recover the words I lost Wednesday by redoing them yesterday morning before heading out to work. It was lovely; they aren’t the same words, and they aren’t good words, but as always happens after such a work catastrophe, the reconstructed words are better than the ones I originally wrote. Maybe I can get some work done today on it as well, since I am unwell. Trying to keep focused isn’t always easy in these instances, but I think I am going to retire to the easy chair under a blanket when I finish this and read/nap for a little while. I am also exhausted this morning; my bones and joints are achy, in addition to the stomach issues, and I am not entirely certain what that’s about, either. My entire body feels achingly tired. I slept deeply last night, too–I don’t know what could be causing this.

I hate being sick, and I hate that is seems to be more commonplace in my life than it ever used to be–I used to go years without even catching a cold, and now it seems like every month or so something goes haywire. Other things no one tells you about getting old, either. I don’t mind being old; I never ever think to myself, oh how I wish I was young again. I don’t. I don’t miss being young at all–other than the energy, the ability to bounce back quickly, and not aching all the time. That I miss, and the energy and drive to go to the gym multiple times per week.

But I am going to bring this to a close and go lay back down now. Have a lovely Friday, Constant Reader.

 

 

IMG_0996