Being with You

Our new stray (we’re currently calling him Guzman, after a character on Elite) is very friendly, and is clearly someone’s cat, or was; he wants to come inside (alas, already have one indoor kitty) and not only is happy to be fed, but he also wants to be petted and loved on. He’s also very talkative and purrs while being fed/petted. He’s also enormous; he’s a bit on the skinny side, but if he were fed regularly he’d probably eventually expand to Bubba size, and Bubba was essentially the size of a small wildcat–he had to weigh thirty pounds, and his fangs, like Guzman’s, were very long and scary-looking. Guzman could do some serious damage were he so inclined…and I’ve not seen hide nor hair of Tiger since Guzman showed up. Guzman has also yet to figure out he could and would be fed by every door in our little complex–something Tiger learned very quickly–and instead just hangs out on our steps.

While he’s nice to have around, he clearly was–or is–someone’s cat, and I worry that maybe we should have someone come and take him in–he’s been chipped (clipped ear), but if he was abandoned that just makes me furious. I’m hoping he belongs to someone in the neighborhood (the way Simba did) and just has decided to hang out around our steps for a while.

I did make it to the gym last night after work, which was marvelous–despite the heavy soupy humidity; I was drenched in sweat by the time I got there–and I did one set of everything at the weights I was using before the break–three to four weeks, however long it was–and only lat pulldowns was a real strain; I’ve never really had much back strength, at least not in my lat muscles, which then becomes compounded by not wanting to do those exercises or push myself, which becomes the vicious cycle of the lats never getting stronger so the exercise never becomes easier so I don’t like to do them or push myself with them so they never get stronger so the exercise never becomes easier so I….you get the point. I had hoped to be on a split workout by June–different body parts on different days–but that’s going to have to be pushed back to July now, and only if I manage to keep consistent with my three times per week visits. I think I can do this, but I’ve also thought that before. But sixty is also staring me in the face–scratching at my back, as it were–and if I don’t want to continue becoming more and more feeble, regular visits to the gym needs to become part of my routine. Now that summer is here in its full force, that also means the walk to and from will result in heavy loss of body fluids…as it did last night…so I need to make sure I remain fully hydrated.

Insomnia also reared its ugly head again last night; but I am okay with it. I’ve not suffered from this at all since my return from Kentucky, and as long as it doesn’t become a nightly occurrence again I am good with dealing with being tired today–right now I don’t feel tired; my eyes a bit and my legs, of course, but that’s not from lack of sleep so much as it is from the workout last night–but we shall see how the day goes. At the very least I don’t have to go to the gym tonight, so being tired won’t impact my workouts…but tomorrow is another story.

I also didn’t write last night, which wasn’t ideal, but between going to the gym and then coming home for my protein shake and shower there wasn’t much time before Paul came home–and I started falling asleep a bit while we were watching our current Acorn series, Blood–which is interesting, and boy oh boy is the family it focuses on seriously fucked up–but that was also, I think, partly due to Scooter sleeping in my lap; Paul and I have both noted that our cat’s superpower is the ability to lull us both to sleep simply by cuddling with either of us. It’s probably his regular breathing, heartbeat, and warmth, but it is interesting; Skittle didn’t have that power over me. But I have been thinking more about “Festival of the Redeemer,” and am hopeful I’ll get a few thousand words done on it today at some point. I also want to work on “The Sound of Snow Falling” this week; my goal is to get rough first drafts of both finished by the end of the weekend as well as an edit of “A Dirge in the Dark” finished, and I also want to revise the first chapter of Chlorine I’ve already written. An ambitious plan, to be sure, but one that is possible to accomplish. I really need to start achieving at a high level again, and stop whining about lack of sleep and getting older, and using both as an excuse to not achieve–if that makes any sense?

I’ve also, of all things, started exploring Instagram some more. I was discussing it with That Bitch Ford over the weekend, and he was pointing out that he often gets more engagement there than he does on other social media; which I thought was kind of interesting. So, on my way to and from the gym on Sunday in the rain (that aborted trip because I had the operating hours wrong), I was taking pictures of my neighborhood and posting them on Instagram–and yes, there was a LOT of engagement and I gained a lot of new followers; which was, as I mentioned before, rather interesting. Maybe it’s because it’s more of a visual medium than Facebook and Twitter? I have no idea, but will keep you apprised as I continue what I call The Instagram Experiment. I mean, I love taking pictures–I have literally THOUSANDS of picture files stored in the Cloud–so why not combine my love of photography with a social medium dedicated to sharing images? I doubt I will start making videos–I recorded one yesterday at the request of the San Francisco Public Library, to promote the queer mystery panel I am doing for them later this month–since I hate the way I look and I really hate the sound of my voice–but one never knows.

Stranger things indeed have happened.

And on that note, it’s time to get ready to head into the spice mines and get my day rolling. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader!

Way of Life

Sunday morning, and yesterday was a bust. Oh, we took Scooter to the vet, but I was oddly tired (Always Tired: The Greg Herren Story) and only intended to read for a little while; but alas, every time I got up to try to do something, anything…I was tired and gave up. So, I stuck to my easy chair and read Summer of ’42, and even dozed off for a little while around five. I was finally able to get up the energy to put the dishes away and clean out the dishes in the sink before making dinner–which is also when I did the filing and tried to get a handle on the reorganizing. I am hoping that tonight I’ll sleep well, which will help me get through the gym tomorrow as well as getting a leg up on the things I need to get done in the meanwhile before I go visit my family later this month.

But blessed sleep did occur last night and so I am hopeful that today I can make serious progress on all the things I wanted to get done this weekend. I started writing a short story yesterday, “Vivit Dominus,” and I’d like to make some progress on that today. I am going to go to the gym later on, and of course, would like to spend some time getting a handle on some of the other messes that seem to have become permanent around here. I also need to make a decision on what to read next…so many excellent choices in that TBR pile that sometimes it’s hard to decide.

We watched Palmer last night on Apple Plus, starring Justin Timberlake (#freeBritney), and it was incredibly well done. Timberlake gives a stunning performance as a former small town Louisiana football hero who wound up spending twelve years in jail for attempted murder, and comes home to live with his grandmother. Her home is next door to a trailer…and a young woman lives there (played brilliantly by Ted Lasso’s Juno Temple) who has a little boy who isn’t like other little boys. He has no interest in boy things, and his favorite TV show is Princess Penelope, a cartoon about princesses who have wings and can fly and have adventures. Grandma Vivian takes care of Sam when his mom is off on a drug binge, disappearing for weeks at a time. Grandma Vivian dies in her sleep during one of these times while she’s taking care of Sam, and the responsibility for taking care of Sam falls on Palmer–who doesn’t know what to do with this gender nonconforming little boy. At first he tries to get Sam to be more like other boys, but Sam is persistent–he likes what he likes and doesn’t understand why there’s a difference between boy things and girl things–and it’s really beautiful and touching to watch Palmer slowly come around to not only accepting him as he is, but becoming a parent. It’s a really lovely little film, and one of the few good things that came out of the pandemic is that streaming services are picking up lovely movies like this and making them available to a much larger audience than they would have reached in a theatrical release. Every film we’ve watched on Apple Plus has been quite marvelous. They have a documentary called Boys’ State that I’d like to watch–particularly since I myself went to Boys’ State when I was in high school.

And Ted Lasso is coming back in July! Huzzah!

So, today I am going to make a to-do list and see what progress I can make on it today. I am going to walk to the gym in a few hours and get my workout done–it inevitably wears me out and makes me tired, but I have to somehow stay awake so I can get sleep tonight so I can function tomorrow. However, a quick check of the gym’s hours today shows that they are no longer only open from 10-3 on Sundays but rather 9-6, so I can actually go later than I’d originally planned, which is even better. Huzzah! That changes everything.

So, I am going to get up for a bit and do some touching up around here, and then I am going to work for a while, maybe do some writing. Have a lovely Mother’s Day, Constant Reader!

Turn

Saturday morning and I’m up much earlier than I usually am; I woke up around seven–the last time; it was a restless night–and finally decided to just go ahead and get up. We have to take Scooter to the vet at eleven for follow-up blood work (monitoring his diabetes) but other than that, the day is pretty free for me. I am thinking about going to the gym later to do arms (I skipped them last night because…well, because there were too many people there in the small space that is the gym and I don’t like having to force my way into spaces because so many gym-goers seem to feel like they are the only people there or they own the gym or something; I despise many things, but I have an especial hatred for inconsiderate assholes at the gym; always has been a pet peeve of mine) and was actually thinking it might be a good idea to go to alternating workouts; arms on one workout, shoulders/chest/back/legs on the other, with a goal to eventually give legs its own day in June). My muscles feel tired this morning, which means I worked them hard yesterday. That is a good thing. I also don’t want to waste today–which has a tendency to happen far too often on these weekends. The apartment needs some work done on it (it’s horrifying how much I’ve allowed the housework to slide since the first of the year) and perhaps getting up early this morning and using this time to actually do stuff rather than be a slug will help.

We shall see how this day progresses, at any rate.

One would never guess, looking around my apartment this morning, that I prefer to be organized, that’s for certain.

I’ve kind of decided to reread Summer of ’42 by Herman Raucher next. I think I need a break from reading crime fiction–a palate cleanser, if you will–and I’ve been thinking a lot about this book and the film made from it lately; I don’t know why, or I don’t remember the reason it came up in my brain recently (hell, it may have been two years ago for all I can remember; I have absolutely no concept of time anymore). I read the book when I was eleven or twelve; I’m not sure when, but I know it was when we lived in the suburbs, and I’m also not really sure why I was so interested in it. I know I didn’t see the movie until it aired on television, and years later I rented the video to see the unedited version, but it always stuck in my head–so much so that I wrote a short story somewhat predicated on the same premise; nostalgic looking back at the coming of age of the main character. The story was called “The Island”, and rereading that story about ten years ago–I was fond of it, and it was very popular in the creative writing class I wrote it for–I realized, in horror, that it was very clearly a product of its time and could never be published without an extensive rewrite. There was a young woman in that creative writing class, and she hated the story, which of course deeply bothered me; particularly because her criticism was based on nothing–she had nothing concrete other than “it just made me squirm a bit,” was all she could say, and of course everyone else in the class just kind of rolled their eyes and dismissed her. On the reread, I realized precisely why it made her squirm, even though she couldn’t–or was afraid to–put it into words: the main character was thirteen and is seduced by a woman in her early twenties, so I kind of unintentionally wrote a grooming/pedophile story but wrote it as a nostalgic, coming of age romantic story. Ick ick ick. In retrospect, her reaction was the right one to have, frankly. I tried to rewrite it and make the characters closer in age–making the main character seventeen and the young woman twenty–but it still had an ick factor to it. I thought about changing it to a gay story, but that made it even ickier.

This set me to thinking about how our viewpoints on this sort of thing have changed over the course of my life, and whether Summer of ’42, which inspired the story in the first place, would still read the same way all these years later. NOW I REMEMBER! (There’s still some juice in the old brain yet!) I started thinking about my story again when I made the list of all the unpublished short stories I have in my files, and I remembered, not only this story but another one I wrote for that class that was never published anywhere, “Whim of the Wind”–and I was thinking about that story a lot over the last year because that one was also set in Corinth County, Alabama–the place I was writing about in Bury Me in Shadows, and the two stories (“The Island” and “Whim of the Wind”) are forever linked in my head because I wrote them for the same writing class and turned both in together (we could turn in as many stories as we wanted, but had to turn it at least once twice in the semester…I turned in two the first time, and six the second time; the first example of how prolific I can be when I set my mind to it and do the work). But I digress. Back in the day, when I was growing up and even up to my thirties and forties, the age gap thing–and the sexuality of teenagers–wasn’t as big a deal as it is today, if that makes sense. Even now, when there’s a scandal about a teenaged boy having sex with an adult woman–usually a teacher in her early twenties–a lot of men don’t see the problem and say lucky kid or wish I’d had a teacher like that when I was in high school and things like that; as though there’s something natural and “manly” and normal about a teenaged boy having sex with an adult (incidentally, if the teacher is male these same responses are most definitely not used; adult male teachers who have sex with girl students aren’t treated or looked at the same way, nor are male teachers having sex with male students; adult men are inevitably seen as predators–the very same type of double standard the classic Tracy/Hepburn film Adam’s Rib addressed in 1949).

It’s rather interesting now, as sixty looms on the horizon, to look back and see how the world has changed since I was a kid.

We got caught up on Cruel Summer last night, then tried watching The Serpent on Netflix–I’d read Thomas Thompson’s book about the murderous couple, Serpentine, years ago–but it didn’t really hold our interest, so we decided to skip it and move on to something else.

Okay, I’ve put off getting the day started for long enough now. Talk to you tomorrow, Constant Reader.

Get Out

Saturday morning and feeling…maybe not fine, but not bad.

Edits are on my horizon today, lots and lots of edits. That’s fine; I need to get this done and I’ve been turning the manuscript and story and so forth over and over in my head all week, and think I am finally ready to get this accomplished. Huzzah? Huzzah!

We were supposed to get a thunderstorm last night, but I don’t know if it ever came through; the sidewalk is wet outside so obviously at some point it rained; but I apparently slept through it. I slept pretty decently last night; I woke up around 4 this morning, and then did that in-and-out-of-a-half-sleep thing until I got up around seven thirty. I am a bit foggy this morning, which the coffee should help with, and I intend to spend some time this morning with my Laurie R. King novel, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, which I am enjoying the hell out of; it will be hard to tear myself away from it to go to work, but that is indeed what I must do today, and I am sure when the time to go to work rolls around I will have to force myself to tear myself away from Sherlock and Mary; but I can also spend some time with them again tomorrow.

My April plans seem to have swirled around the drain, haven’t they? Perhaps I was feeling a bit ambitious as we headed into this month, and yes, this month there were a lot of outside distractions–issues with the apartment, the flooding of the laundry room/kitchen, etc.–plus issues with sleeping; it’s no wonder I didn’t get a whole hell of a lot done this past month. I did get some good research done on Chlorine, and even get some background preparatory work done that was necessary before I start writing it, so that’s something, at any rate; I’ve not had as much luck with writing and/or creating new short stories this month–or even revising/finishing ones I’ve already started.

I probably shouldn’t be so hard on myself.

While making condom packs yesterday I watched Taylor Swift’s Reputation concert film on Netflix, and after it dove directly into Miss Americana, also on Netflix (I told you, I’m turning into a Swiftie). I enjoyed both tremendously, in all honesty; I’m not quite sure why she appeals so much to an almost-sixty year old gay man, but there you have it. Last night we also finished off the first season of Line of Duty, which was quite good, and are now going to move onto the second season; there are at least four that I am aware of, and we’re really looking forward to this second season. It’s quite good–I’m not sure if the second season is going to continue examining the corruption within the police department the first season focused on, or if it’s going to jump around to different stations; and the end of the first season wasn’t exactly a great example of justice being meted out…but it was a lot more realistic than most shows with the ending they chose–it’s easy to see and understand how that would be exactly how “justice” would play out when it comes to corruption within the police department.

Sad, but true.

And on that note, I am heading to my easy chair to read and swill coffee for a bit–Scooter is whining, which means he needs a warm lap to nap in–and I hope you all have a simply marvelous and productive (or relaxing) Saturday; whichever you choose, Constant Reader.

Jetstream

Good Friday!

Yesterday was not one of my more pleasant days–although it wasn’t nearly anything as horrible as Wednesday was. Paul and I took Scooter to the vet for his bloodwork (he’s a senior kitty) and to check on how his diabetes is going, and then headed out to Costco to look at washing machines. We found one we liked, I took a picture of it (you can only buy them by ordering on line), and after we got back home we ordered it. We will have a brand spanking new washing machine delivered here next Friday, and I’ll have to deal with not doing any laundry between now and then–although I can use the one in the carriage house if need be in the meantime. (It’s very weird; not being able to do the laundry until next week makes me itch a little bit–not that it matters in the least. We have plenty of clothes, we bought some really nice new towels at Costco so that situation is under control for now, so I am not really sure why precisely it’s making me itchy that I can’t do a load of laundry…go figure.)

I was also tired all day yesterday; despite the good night’s sleep; I think all the stress and mood swinging of Wednesday night just completely drained me. I had little to no energy; after we picked up Scooter from the vet and I had my board meeting, I literally collapsed into my easy chair and dozed off for a bit, which never happens. I am not now, nor have I ever been, someone who either could nap; whenever I was able to take one, it kind of defeated the purpose of the nap because I would inevitably wake up from the nap feeling more tired and wrung out than I did before taking the nap. But I dozed off yesterday afternoon, woke up and did some things around the Lost Apartment, and then dozed off again during the early evening–definitely not like me. (A purring, sleeping kitty in my lap didn’t help me stay awake. Paul and I have long since recognized Scooter’s super-power is the ability to put us both to sleep; or in my case, most of the time, paralysis; I lose the desire to do anything but flip through channels or watch videos or find a documentary to watch.)

I did discover, by scrolling through the documentary listings on Netflix last night, a 2019 documentary about Dolly Parton, and let’s face it, I’ll watch anything with or about Dolly Parton because, well, I will always love her. I think the most interesting part of the entire thing was watching Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda trying to describe who Dolly is; whether it’s a persona or if what we see of her is really who she is. I also find it interesting to see the the similarities in the rags-to-riches tales of our biggest stars–like it’s almost a prerequisite for them to achieve massive stardom is to come from practically nothing; as seen in Tina earlier this week as well. (I also love how the story of how Dolly turned down Elvis’ offer to cover “I Will Always Love You” because he always required fifty percent of the publishing rights to everything he sang; the wisdom of that refusal seen when Whitney Houston turned it into one of the most popular single recordings of all time in the early 1990’s–and how incredibly gracious Dolly always is about that very thing; “She made me rich!”)

And when that was finished–all too soon, I could watch anything about Dolly for hours–we found a documentary series about John Wayne Gacy (Paul is fascinated by serial killers, and Gacy in particular) that uses actual footage from an interview Gacy gave several years after his conviction in an attempt to convince the press of his innocence; footage that was never seen until now…and Christ, how creepy was the guy? We watched the first episode, with me sort of awake–I kept dozing off and waking up again–and once it was finished we both retired to bed. I slept deeply and well last night, and feel rested today; my brain feels like it’s functional again and my muscles and body feel rested; which is good because now I have to really do a deep dive into finishing the book.

That’s really all I have to do this weekend–I am not even planning on going to the gym again until the book is done because I know it’ll wear me out and I won’t want to work afterwards. Much as I hate putting off the gym like this, I also know myself a little too well to pull of the self-deception of oh of course I’ll work on my book after I work out…when inevitably I am always exhausted afterwards. I feel good and better after a workout of course, but eventually the muscle fatigue sets in and then I am done done done.

And on that note, the book ain’t going to write itself, is it? See you tomorrow morning, Constant Reader! Be well an stay safe!

Your Silent Face

Hello, Thursday, how’s it hangin’?

Yesterday was kind of strange, really. In the morning I had issues with my espresso machine–no worries, I ordered a new one–but since the problem was the water was turning to steam rather than coming through the ground beans, I think the smaller amount of actual coffee produced had a much higher octane than I am used to having in the morning. Since the second cup–which is usually the cappuccino I sip off the rest of the morning at work–was also somewhat smaller than usual, I made a small cup of regular coffee with the Keurig to add to it so I would have enough for the morning.

It was about nine, I think, when I realized I had made a horrible mistake with the caffeine dosages and was essentially bouncing off the walls, over-caffeinated, with the whole eyes burning thing that usually means I am really tired and have had too much caffeine to compensate, and yeah. I was too jittery to do much of anything, and I was talking a mile-a-minute with my clients All. Damned. Day. And of course, on my way home, I had the inevitable caffeine crash…I had intended to go to the gym, but it was also supposed to rain. When I got home, I decided to do a load of laundry, and while that was going, I’d work on some emails, possibly the book, and if it hadn’t started raining by six when I switched the laundry from washer to dryer, I would then head to the gym. As I sat here, being constantly pestered by Scooter (and frankly, being annoyed) I heard water running–loudly; so loud it couldn’t be the washer, so I thought, ah, it’s raining, so the gym is out. But it kept get louder, and finally I looked out the window and realized, to my horror, that it was not, in fact, raining….so I spun around in may chair and saw that not only was the laundry room floor under water, it was spreading into the rugs into the kitchen. I immediately ran (splashed) into the laundry room, lifted the lid to the washer….and there was no water in it, and the sound of running water, naturally, stopped when I lifted the lid. I dragged the sopping wet rugs outside and draped them over the fence to dry, and then gathered up all the towels from inside the washer–oh yes, I was doing a load of towels–and they weren’t enough. I had to get all the towels from the linen closet upstairs to mop up and dry the floor. (Dragging the sopping wet rugs outside had also resulted in pools of water being formed wherever the rugs had passed–so the living room floor, the steps outside–and so I had to keep mopping.)

And of course, not being the most emotionally stable person at the moment–the stress of the deadline, any number of other things, the sense that I am just treading water in the deep end of the pool and getting very very tired–led to an almost amazing storm of emotions, swinging back and forth from a horrific depression (why does everything always have to be so fucking hard? What’s the point of staying positive when life just keeps shoveling shit on top of you?) to almost out of control hysterics (how are we going to afford a new washer? What are we going to do without a washing machine? So from now on every week I’m going to have to drag everything to a laundromat? Because I have nothing else to do? Something else stealing my time away from me?). Yeah, it wasn’t pretty, and when finally the pendulum stopped swinging–I was wringing out the soaking towels in the bathroom sink before putting them in the dryer–an eerie calm had descended over me, and I just didn’t care about anything anymore. This was even more disquieting than the swinging pendulum, frankly–I was worried something in my brain had snapped and the not caring thing was kind of, well, scary. When Paul got home, completely exhausted–he’d stayed up all night Tuesday working on a grant and working on a special project–he was also in that “mind has kind of broken” place, and we commiserated about everything and came up with a workable plan. We’re going to see if we can get a washing machine from Costco–figuring it can’t be more expensive there than it would be anywhere else–and we needed, ironically, to buy new towels anyway (I’ve just been putting it off, worrying about spending money), so we are going to also get some new towels while we are there. The carriage house is still unrented, and I think there’s a washer/dryer in there, so we are going to ask our landlady if we can use the washing machine in there until our new one comes–or else I’ll just have to go spend some time at a laundromat-and yes, it will eat up some time in my day, but at the same time, I can do all the laundry all at once, and I can read The Russia House while I sit and wait.

The book isn’t quite finished yet, either, so I am going to tell them I am taking the weekend to finish and polish and will send it in on Monday. Writing this book, I realized, as well as the one before it, has also taken a deep emotional toll on me (part of the reason last night’s meltdown was so intense, frankly), as did the one I wrote right before it. Writing back to back books that came from deep inside personal experience as well as facing up to those personal experiences has been emotionally exhausting and draining, to say the least.

I slept very well–I did wake up a few times during the night–but feel rested, if drained, this morning. One of the reasons I always try to stave off the meltdowns and the pendulum swings is precisely because it’s exhausting, and today I have a kind of hangover from it. The apartment is still a mess–it was a HUGE mess before the flooding; after the calm descended last night I told myself you know, the only thing you can actually control is how messy this fucking apartment is, and so I set to work on getting everything put away and organized and under control again. I didn’t finish–after Paul and I talked and he went to bed, I went into the living room and sat down, flipped on the DVR and went to my happy place–watching LSU game highlights, like the last five minutes of last season’s Florida and Mississippi games, with those amazing comeback wins pulled off in the closing minutes of each game–before finally retiring to bed.

Today is insane and all over the map. We have to take Scooter into the vet this morning for a follow-up on his diabetes as well as his “senior cat” blood panels, and then I am going to run uptown and get the mail, drop off a library book, and at some point we’re going to swing by Costco. I have six hours of data entry to squeeze in today around all of that, and I also need to do some writing (obviously); so it’s going to be a bit of a hectic day with lots of running around and utter madness. The towels hadn’t dried completely in the dryer, so I am running them through another full cycle–they’re dirty, too, since I mopped up the floor with them; but I also didn’t want to have to carry a load of sopping wet towels anywhere, whether it’s to a laundromat or to the carriage house. I’ve checked the rugs–they are dry, so they can be brought in and put back into place–it’s going to be sunny all day, so I am also liking the idea of them being aired out, and while they are draped over the fence I want to beat them with the broom (makeshift rug beater), and I like the idea of them outside air drying and getting whatever smells may be in them swept away by the sun and the wind and so forth.

And on that note, let me get another cup of coffee and brace myself for the rest of the day and whatever fresh hells it has in store for me. I will let you know tomorrow how it all goes, Constant Reader.

Last Christmas

And it is Christmas Eve for those who celebrate–and even for those actually don’t, really; it’s rather inescapable in the United States. I generally don’t make a big deal out of Christmas anymore. Decorating is out because the decorations aren’t safe from Scooter, who is sweet but dumb enough to chew through an electrical wire for lights and will try to climb/pull down/destroy the tree. We don’t buy gifts for each other anymore because neither of us is wanting or in need of anything that is an affordable gift, and we generally just buy what we want or need whenever we can. So, for us, it’s more of a “don’t have to go to work” thing, and we generally just lay around and relax on Christmas, and this year’s plan includes watching Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO MAX.

I went to the gym yesterday evening, and I have to say, while I always have to make myself go and even after I am there, I still have to make myself resist the urge the lighten the weights so it’s not so hard, and not to skip machines and exercises…it always feels amazing after I get home and get cleaned up. I also noticed yesterday that my moobs are turning back into pecs. The veins in my arms are becoming more visible–if not prominent quite yet–and I noticed that my backside is getting firmer. (I notice this primarily when I sit down on the wooden floor of the aerobics room to stretch…it’s not as comfortable as it used to be, when everything was squishier.) I don’t really have a set goal at the moment for my working out or the development of my body; right now, I am still primarily focused on getting to the gym three times a week and pushing through the exercising…but it is always lovely to notice progress. Once the routine is more secured and there’s less concern for me about skipping, maybe then I’ll figure out a physical goal, but for now, I am enjoying the feeling of exercise and it’s effects on my body. I’ve always had a contentious relationship with my body, to be honest, and I am actually kind of enjoying getting reacquainted with my muscles and my body and reevaluating it. I don’t know that I’ve actually achieved any wisdom in my sixty years on this planet, but I feel like I am not nearly as hyper-critical of my body as I was when I was younger. I think in February is when I am going to change my workouts to body parts rather than the full body workout I’ve been doing.

Last night we started watching Tiny Pretty Things, the ballet school series on Netflix–I’ve always been fascinated by ballet, and have always wanted to write a gay noir set in a ballet company–and while it gives in to tropes from time to time–the villainess among the students is a bitchy blonde girl from a wealthy family, for one–and of course, the ‘girl from nowhere’ who comes to the school as a student with a stunning amount of raw talent that shakes up the power dynamics of the school; periodically I would say, “this is Showgirls only in ballet”. There’s a gay kid, who is having sex with his ostensibly straight male roommate; there’s a kid whose father died in the Middle East (whether Iraq or Afghanistan isn’t made clear) who of course has to share a room with the French kid who’s also a Muslim; Lauren Holly chews every piece of scenery she gets near as Monique DuBois, who runs the school (it also took me a while to realize it was her, because she doesn’t look much like she used to; I’d see her full face and think yes that’s her and then they would show her in profile and I wouldn’t be so sure anymore); and of course there’s all the competition and backstabbing one would expect from a ballet school/company. Most of the cast came from the world of ballet–there’s really no way to fake the bodies or the dancing–and it’s always a joy to watch them rehearse, practice, warm up, and actually dance. There’s also a central mystery; the prima ballerina at the school is in a coma, having fallen off the roof–or was she pushed? Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us is an excellent novel about the cutthroat world of a ballet school–it was an Edgar finalist the year I was a judge for young adult crime novels, and I’ve never forgotten it. I’ve been wanting to write a ballet noir since the early 1990’s, and Megan Abbott’s next novel The Turnout, is a ballet noir I cannot wait to get my hands on. I still might write one–while Megan’s book will probably be the definitive ballet novel, mine would be about a gay dancer (of course), so I think I could get away with writing about the same subject.

So many things to write, so little time.

I’d actually planned on sleeping in this morning, but I woke up just before seven and went ahead and got up. I figured I could drink some coffee while cleaning and organizing my office space, and then later, when my mind is more awake and focused and clear, I’ll dive into Bury Me in Shadows. I’d like to get through this last chapters–I still have to write one more chapter, the end–so I can get to work on my story for the MWA anthology deadline. I’m also going to try to finish reading The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson, and I also have a couple of secret projects I need to start thinking about. I also have an advance copy of the new Alison Gaylin novel, The Collective, that I cannot wait to start reading.

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Christmas Eve, Constant Reader!

Soon You’ll Get Better

It’s been so long since there’s been a good day, seriously, I’d forgotten how satisfying one could be. And it really takes so little for a day to be a good one, it’s almost sad.

Forget it, Jake–it’s 2020.

But yes, yesterday was a lovely day. Thursday night I discovered that I was actually incorrect; Scooter’s follow-up appointment was yesterday rather than this morning, so I took a personal day yesterday and we took care of everything yesterday rather than today. Scooter is doing very well–if he progresses at the rate he has been, in two weeks (they want to see him again) he may be able to come off the insulin, which is wonderful–although the shots don’t even phase me now–and after that we went to Costco for Paul to order glasses. I have to say, I was incredibly impressed with the service at Costco, as was Paul. I highly recommend getting your optical needs handled there–that’s where I’m going to get my next pair of glasses. Paul wound up getting two pairs for less than what he paid for his last pair–and the new frames look much better and are much more flattering than his last ones, too. I did a little bit of shopping there–taking care of our bacon, hamburger, shrimp and dark chocolate sea salt caramel candy needs–and then it was back home to the Lost Apartment. Since the day was going so well (and part of it was Paul and I actually spending time together–which we really haven’t done very much of lately; we really always manage to have fun no matter what we are doing, and I’ve really missed that) I decided not to engage with social media or the Internet, and spent the day organizing and cleaning and doing laundry and dishes and all sorts of things like that around the house–trying to eliminate clutter and so forth–and then last night we binged a wonderful Spanish mini-series, Someone Has to Die before retiring to bed for the evening.

Overall, it was an absolutely lovely, relaxing day, and one we were both desperately in need of–it almost felt like the before times, you know?

It’s only sixty-five degrees outside right now, and the low for today is 58 with a high of 75–and yes, I’ve turned into one of those old people who talk about the weather and check it all the time.

This past week was stressful; one of my parents had a health issue for most of the week. It still isn’t completely resolved–a procedure is necessary, but it’s also one Mom has had before, so it’s not quite as stressful as it was at the beginning of the week, when she was admitted to the hospital and we were told the worst case scenarios–that was one of those times when I was glad I have a day job; dealing with my clients forced me to stop worrying and focus on something else–but it has been weighing heavy on my mind this week. My parents aren’t much older than I am really; I am fifty nine and they both turned seventy-eight last weekend, so while I am sure reminders of parental mortality aren’t good for anyone, such reminders also serve to remind me that I’m not exactly young myself anymore.

Today there’s no LSU game, and while I was thinking I’d probably skip college football entirely today, Georgia and Alabama are also playing tonight, and since they are the only two undefeated teams left in the conference, I’ll probably have the game on while I sit in my easy chair and reread Bury Me in Shadows. Since it’s a night game, that also gives me the entire day today to run the errands I need to run (mail and making groceries) and then I can spend some time working this afternoon before settling in to watch the game.

I still have to proof a story, revise another, and I just got the second round of edits on my essay (along with an apologetic note from the editor for being so brutal), so those things have to also be addressed at some point this weekend; I think I am going to proof the one story, than go through a print out of the one that needs revision and deal with that today; then read the manuscript so I can get back into it, and then tomorrow I’ll face the essay and possibly a chapter or two of revisions on Bury Me in Shadows.

I also have a lot of volunteer work that I need to get caught up on–heavy heaving sigh; there’s always more work to be done. There’s also still some organizing I need to do, and of course, the laundry room shelves are always in need of some kind of straightening/thinning. I’m slowly but surely purging books again–the clutter around here is very alarming–and of course now that the kitchen is in order, it just makes everything else look that much worse and problematic. But I am starting to feel more centered these days and also like I am going to be able to get a handle on everything. I’ve joked most of the year that I’ve felt like someone spinning plates on sticks on The Ed Sullivan Show to the tune of “The Flight of the Bumblebee”; I don’t necessarily feel like that anymore. It’s easy to get stressed when you’re already behind on things and more things start to pile-up on you; and the stress is self-defeating in that it causes paralysis and the mentality there’s no way I can keep up let alone get ahead let alone get all of this done so why bother trying?

Fear is, indeed, the mindkiller.

Oh! I also ordered the converter USB plug I need for the Air so I can use and access my back-up hard drive and flash drives again. I also discovered that I did go ahead and get the Apple Care for the Air, so I can take it into the store and get some assistance with this “disk is almost full” nonsense I have to constantly deal with, as well as the “no room so I can’t update programs” idiocy. I’d really love to be able to fix the desktop, frankly–I really miss having the massive screen to look at–but it’s also a memory issue, there’s no Apple Care for it, and I’m not so certain it’s worth spending the money on. Decisions, decisions….but taking the Air in to have them look at it and make it more functional is undoubtedly the smart thing to do.

So, my outlook this morning is good and positive, and I feel rested and relaxed and ready to take on the challenges of getting the things done and taken care of that I need to get done and taken care of.

And on that note, Constant Reader, I am back into the fray, at least for the morning, working my way through emails before running the errands and getting into the work I need to get done today. Hope you have a lovely Saturday, and things go well for you.

The Best Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Better Than Revenge

I have to admit–and I know precisely what it says about me as a person–that I love revenge.

I love a good revenge story, in particular. The Count of Monte Cristo–despite the flowery writing and being way too long–is a terrific story of revenge; it set the bar for every revenge tale that has come after it. The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon remains one of my favorites of his fun reads (I really need to go back to it at some point) because it, too, centered vengeance at its heart; my other favorite of his, If Tomorrow Comes, was even more centered on revenge and thus I loved it.

I think it comes from a place of wanting to see people punished for their sins, really; there’s nothing more aggravating than seeing evil flourish and no intervention, no divine wrath, no nothing. Revenge is really about, at its true base, justice; and isn’t that what the point of all crime writing is, really? The search for justice? And I am not ashamed to admit that, while I never really wish ill on anyone who’s done me a bad turn or fucked me over, that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it when something bad happens to said person. (I never celebrate death or severe illness; I’m horrible, but not that horrible. In fact, generally, after a smirk and eyebrow raise upon hearing bad news about someone I detest, and after the first adrenaline rush of what a pity, I generally empathize with said person. Empathy is really not hard, you know? I’ve never understood the inability to think, wow, if that happened to me it would really be awful. Then again, if someone’s a sociopath or a narcissist, or a combination of the two…)

Today is my work at home day, and it seems weird that it’s Friday again, and it’s also the first Friday of October. The light changes in October; there’s a more golden glow to it now, and it feels very weird to come home from work on a muggy afternoon like yesterday, after stopping at the grocery store, and within a few hours of sundown have the apartment feel so cold. As beautiful as it is, sometimes the humidity hasn’t gone away completely, so it’s cool but humid–so you still sweat even though it doesn’t feel like you should be, and that dampness makes the after-sundown temperature drop feel even more extreme than it actually is. I was, in a word, exhausted yesterday; I made kit bags for the syringe access program yesterday afternoon, which is a menial task which also requires me to be on my feet, and constantly bending over and so forth, and after four and a half hours of that I am always achy and tired. (I should have stretched when I got home; idiot.) Today I am working from home, trying to get caught up on things, and later on of course will be in the easy chair making condom packs again. But I slept deeply and well and feel rested this morning; once I get my stretches done I should be able to face the world and get things finished and accomplished and get on with things.

Or so one would think and/or hope.

It looks like we got the go-ahead to add another day of clinic services at work, which is fine, even if it means I have another day where I have to get up early. I love working with my clients–that’s always been the best part of my day job–and I certainly welcome the opportunity to see more people. The thought of a third day of getting up at six is, of course, daunting and unappealing, but I have to also get used to it. I think that’s been part of the entire problem of everything since March; as someone who becomes addicted to routine and also draws comfort from it, the constant readjustments and changes to everything in my life on an almost weekly basis has been challenging and also part of the exhaustion/depression issues I’ve been dealing with, particularly in the last few months. As I mentioned the other day when talking about stretching and flexibility, those words also work as a metaphor for my life these last few months. I still clearly need to work on my flexibility when it comes to working and planning and getting things done, and I need to get that under control otherwise I will sink, rather than swim.

Lately I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed it’s been defeating. There never seems to be enough time to get everything done that needs to be gotten done, and there are so many demands on my time that sometimes I get overwhelmed and need to back away and get my head together. I am remarkably self-aware in some ways and completely clueless in still others; but one thing I do know is that when I am drowning and overwhelmed–it’s better to let things sit for a day or so rather than try to put my head down and try to bull my way through; that will inevitably lead to frustration and anger and neither are the proper place to start when dealing with, and working with, other people. I have to finish that essay today, and read/edit another. I need to get those contracts signed, and answer about a million emails at some point. And while it is enormously satisfying to check things off a list and work your way through things–it’s still incredibly stressful, can take a long time, and is, in general, exhausting.

Scooter is doing well. He seems livelier, more alert, and certainly more affectionate since we started him on the special diet wet food and giving him the twice-a-day shots; I seem to be the one giving the shots most of the time, but who realistically didn’t see that coming? I’m more comfortable giving it than I was in the beginning–of course you get used to things the more you do them–but I’m never entirely sure I’ve managed to actually puncture his skin and inject the little bit of insulin he needs into him. Sometimes he flinches, but he doesn’t flinch every time–but he’s also come to associate getting the shot with food, so insulin shock is no longer a concern for me. As soon as he gets the shot he heads to his food bowl and starts eating, so that’s one less thing to have anxiety over, thank God. Although seeing how much better Scooter is makes me feel like a shitty pet-owner; how bad did he feel before he started getting the insulin? It’s also weird that he wants to cuddle even more than he did before, which was already most of the time–and he’s very demanding about it. But with my work laptop and the condom packing, I can sit in the easy chair and let him curl up and sleep between my legs, or in the space between me and the arm of the chair, and of course, is there anything more calming and comforting than a sleeping, purring cat? Not likely.

But it’s Friday, which means there will be a new episode of Ted Lasso tonight–the season finale, alas, but it’s been renewed already–and right now I feel like I can untangle all the Gordian knots and get things finished that need to be finished; at least in time before the next set of knots arrive on my doorstep.

And on that note, have a lovely day, Constant Reader.