Fingers & Thumbs

Here we are on a Tuesday morning with the time change coming and the weather shifting into big-time fall. Yesterday was simply beautiful outside; the sky that magnificent shade of cerulean I’ve never seen anywhere else (Italy has the most beautiful skies) and you can go for a walk without getting drenched in sweat. It’s hard to believe Thanksgiving is right around the corner, with Christmas and New Year’s hot on its tail; and whatever Carnival is going to be is right behind.

Yes, it is that time of year again. HOLIDAYS.

Sigh.

I loved the holidays when I was a kid. Christmas meant presents and a tree and turkey and dressing and decorations and candy and no school for at least two weeks. Thanksgiving didn’t mean presents, but I always always loved that meal (we always had turkey and dressing for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and got to eat the leftovers for days after). As I got older the thrill of the holidays slowly began to wane. By the time I moved in with Paul I was almost completely over them. Almost six years with an airline–which meant working on the holidays if they fell on your scheduled day to work; the airport never closes and neither do the airlines–had kind of robbed the joy from them for me; I could only see family sometime around the holidays, depending on open seats on flights, which were scarce, and spending them with friends wasn’t quite the same thing. We stopped putting up Christmas decorations when we got Scooter–Skittle wasn’t an issue; he’d go knock a ball off the tree, lose interest and go away; Scooter saw Christmas tree and decorations and thought amusement park! And since he loves nothing more than chewing plastic–the first time I caught him trying to chew on a string of lights, that was it for the Christmas decorations. And every time I go up into the attic, I see the box of decorations and think, should I throw them away? We don’t use them, and even–God forbid, knock on wood–when the day comes that we no longer have Scooter with us, will we use them again?

Given our history, it’s very unlikely. And while the Lost Apartment isn’t as festive around the holidays as it could be, as we’ve gotten older it’s just not as important to either of us as it once was. Sure, we enjoy buying each other gifts, and sharing them–Paul always wins Christmas, no matter how hard I try to get him something absolutely perfect, he always gets me something that is so incredibly thoughtful I get teary-eyed–and we enjoy the new traditions that we have come up with together.

And really, the true gift of the holiday is spending it together, unplugging from the world, and just enjoying each other’s company.

But it’s after Halloween now, so the Christmas stuff is coming out in the stores, and the music will start playing everywhere (thank God I don’t listen to the radio anymore). The Christmas specials and movies will start airing again, every television series will have a Christmas episode of some kind (thank you, Ted Lasso, for doing it in the summer time), and advertising will have a distinctive green and red flavor to it. I will inevitably start grumping about the serious overkill–and I am also not looking forward to this year’s noxious and untrue revisitation of the right-wing “war on Christmas” narrative.

My latest Scotty book, Royal Street Reveillon, was an actual Christmas book, set in New Orleans during the Christmas season. One part of Christmas I never get tired of is the way New Orleans dresses herself up for the holiday–and seriously, if you are in town and can get a chance to go look at the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel, it’s breathtakingly beautiful; which is why I had the book start with Scotty getting Taylor his first sazerac in the Sazerac Bar of the Roosevelt Hotel. I wanted to talk about how beautifully the hotel is decorated, how gorgeous the city is in its Christmas finery, and of course–I got to talk about a particularly New Orleans Christmas tradition–reveillon dinner. It’s funny, because I have tried to write about Christmas before–I do, at heart, love Christmas and everything it is supposed to stand for, even if I get Scrooge-like about the overkill in mid-December–but I’ve never really had much success with writing an actual Christmas story. I tried writing Christmas short stories before, but coming up with something original that is also sweet and about love and kindness is incredibly difficult; it’s like every possible idea has already had every bit of juice squeezed out of it already (how many versions of A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life do we really need, anyway?). I wrote three first drafts of Christmas stories–“Silver Bells,” “Silent Night,” and “Reindeer on the Rooftop”–but the first two turned out incredibly sad and depressing and the latter so saccharine sweet it made my teeth ache. I’d always thought of doing a Scotty Christmas book, once I decided to keep the series going past the original three; the original idea of the first trilogy was the gay holidays–Decadence, Halloween, Carnival–and then I thought I would tie all future Scottys around holidays; when I revived the series with Book 4, Vieux Carré Voodoo, opened on Easter Sunday and the end of Lent–which seemed appropriate since the previous book was set during Carnival (I’d actually forgotten about that). Of course, I moved away from that with Who Dat Whodunnit (which was around the Saints Super Bowl win, but also included a Christmas scene with the other side of Scotty’s family, the Bradleys, now that I think about it) and Baton Rouge Bingo…so maybe actually doing a Halloween Scotty book might be in order (I have mentioned this before, of course) since Jackson Square Jazz was set the week before Halloween.

And thinking of the kind of trouble Scotty could get into over Halloween puts a little smile on my face.

I need to buckle down and get to work on my book. It’s due in January and time is slipping into the future…so on that note, dear Constant Reader, I am going to finish this and head into the spice mines. Have a lovely Tuesday!

The Way It Is

Good morning, Sunday, hope everyone is well today. I’m a mixed bag; disappointed that Serena lost in the US Open final yesterday but quite happy that LSU managed to beat Texas last night, 45-38, with an insane second half that basically turned into a high-scoring shoot-out. And you know what’s weird? Every time Texas would pull themselves back into the game, I’d think, Okay, offense, get out there and score again. 

Even weirder? They would. LSU has never, in all the years I’ve watched them, had this kind of offense–at least since JaMarcus Russell went pro after the 2006 season. They scored a touchdown in the closing minutes of the first half to go up 20-7–they never fell behind again after retaking the lead 10-7 in the second quarter–and those two goal line stands in the first half? My God–how do you keep a team from scoring on two consecutive drives inside the five yard line? Eight plays inside the ten, and no points. That was really the turning point of the game for me–that, and that LSU came back and scored again immediately after the second goal line stand. I wondered how good LSU was after the Georgia Southern game–and yes, it’s still early in the season and there’s still a Murderer’s Row of a schedule to get through (including Auburn, Florida, Alabama, and Texas A&M), but wow. LSU is looking championship quality, at least early in the season–and that’s incredibly exciting…although teams we’ll be playing later in the season will be trying to come up with defenses to stop our offense. The defense bailed out the offense in the first half, and the offense bailed out the defense in the second half.

Nevertheless, there was a lot of tension in the Lost Apartment last night until we scored our final touchdown and made a two point conversion to go up 45-31 with less than two minutes to go in the game. Even then, I couldn’t relax until the on-side kick call went in our favor. But it was a big, landmark win for LSU–like Georgia last season–and suddenly, there we are, actually being considered amongst the national elite again.

Wow. GEAUX TIGERS.

Yesterday was one of those days, really–tired, unmotivated, incredibly frustrated with electronics (and increasingly so as the day progressed). My back is getting better but it still tender and slightly sore; I don’t understand what’s going on with the muscles of my lower back, but it really needs to stop. I need to work on a short story and an essay today=–the essay is due this week–and I also agreed to write some website copy at the last minute for a friend’s business. That’s going to take up my morning, mostly, and then there’s some more volunteer work to be done–and my kitchen is a mess and I need to get the filing under control. I’m going to print out the first chapters of the final revision I started on the Kansas book that I wrote earlier this year before having to put them aside–so as to get an idea how to get it going again, and I think I’m simply going to have to figure out how to make the necessary changes it needs before I start trying to write any of it. I am excited about this book, frankly–I’m glad after all the work I’ve put into it I’ve finally figured out how to solve the problems with it and make the story click–but I still have to revise and rewrite it, to get it done and out of my hands.

I am also going to try–try is the operative word here–to write a chapter of Chlorine every week. Last night as I watched the LSU game I figured out how to write the second chapter–and the research I need to do in order to get it right–and I figure if I write a chapter a week, in five months the first draft will be finished, and if I can’t carve out enough time to write a chapter a week I should be ashamed of myself. Obviously, there are going to be weeks I’m not able to get to it–but even if I get a chapter started and not finished, that’s better than not writing anything.

As you will notice, there’s no blatant self-promotion about Royal Street Reveillon contained in this  post. Instead, I will leave you with the opening of Chapter One. Enjoy.

I fished the last olive out of my almost empty glass and popped it into my mouth. I glanced at my watch as I chewed it, and moaned after swallowing. “There’s nothing like a good martini,” I said, glancing around the bar and getting our server’s attention.

 “Do we have time for another?” My nephew Taylor finished the rest of his sazerac and looked at me hopefully.

“I take it you liked it.” I replied, not even trying to hide my smile. “But no time for another unless we want to be late.”

This was Taylor’s first time at the Sazerac Bar. He’d turned twenty-one just a few weeks before Thanksgiving, and since we were going to a party at the Joy Theater, I thought I’d treat him to a sazerac in the bar where they were invented. I personally don’t care for the drink—give me gin or vodka any day of the week—but everyone in New Orleans is required to try a sazerac at least once.

And now I could rest easy, having done not only my civic duty but treated Taylor to a New Orleans rite of passage.

I’d also wanted him to see the Roosevelt Hotel’s Christmas decorations. The Roosevelt was one of the grand old hotels of the city, and their lobby decorations are truly spectacular. Since we were going to a party at the Joy Theater—a mere block or so from the hotel, I thought, why not kill two birds with one stone? This was Taylor’s second Christmas with us, and I wanted to do it right. We’d already done Celebration in the Oaks at City Park, and I’d loved seeing the beautifully decorated ancient live oak trees through a newbie’s eyes.

I know it’s corny, but I love Christmas.

Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader!

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