Harper Valley PTA

Hey, hey, Saturday, what have you got to say?

I feel very good this morning, after another deep and restful night’s sleep. I’ve been allowing myself to stay in bed longer than usual–figuring if I have a mild case of the virus, as I suspect I do–that more rest certainly can’t hurt and might even help. It looks overcast this morning in New Orleans, and one of the things I did last night with the buzz I got from the Chardonnay was start the organization process in my kitchen. It was lovely, actually, to wake up and come downstairs to an organized and neat desk. My next thing to do is get my MWA stuff organized, and this morning I am going to get through everything in my email inbox, if it kills me.

I honestly don’t think it will.

And I want to get some writing done today as well. As I said, I feel terrific this morning; I can’t remember the last time I woke up in the morning and felt great, rather than however it was I was feeling when I got up. I think I’ve turned a corner, and here’s hoping that I can start whipping everything back into shape and getting my life back under control–which is something I’ve not really been feeling lately. That’s the problem with crises like the pandemic; they are so big and enormous and overwhelming that you can’t really grasp them, with the end result you’re almost paralyzed and unable to get anything accomplished. The truth is you can’t worry about it too much, you can’t worry about the future, and you have to let go–which is incredibly difficult, not as easy or as incredibly simplistic as it sounds–and simply focus on what you can do to keep yourself going and get your mind off it. Stress and worry isn’t going to solve anything, and in fact might make things worse by draining your energy and making you feel everything is so hopeless that it can easily turn into depression and lethargy. (I’m genuinely concerned about the suicide rate and mental health issues over the next few months; I remember that Katrina aftermath far too well.

Simply put, the entire country kind of needs a Xanax prescription.

Paul is going into his office today. He assumes the building is going to be completely closed down soon, and is assembling everything he needs to continue working from home. It looks as though I will be able to start going back into the office, if to do nothing else than helping out with the screenings to let people into the building, so that’s going to get me out of the house. I was very tired yesterday after all the interaction and five hours of screening in the very warm garage of our building, but I’ll also be able to retreat into the air conditioning of the building and head up to my desk where I can do some work up there as well. I do like the idea of having to leave the house every day, even as the city continues to shut down more and more; the lack of traffic and the ease of getting around the city certainly makes a difference.

One thing I’ve been wrestling with–and perhaps other writers have been as well–is what do we do with our writing? It is, at best, an enormous national trauma we’re dealing with; do we pretend in our fictional worlds that the pandemic never happened? As with Katrina, it was difficult to do while it was ongoing because you didn’t know how it was all going to play out; so since the end wasn’t in sight there was no happy ending with the Katrina story and we also don’t know how this is going to play out. How can I start writing another Scotty book, other than setting in the past before the pandemic, without knowing how this is going to play out? It was easy to never talk about 9/11 in the Scotty or Chanse books, but obviously I couldn’t ignore Katrina, and I suspect this pandemic is going to be roughly the same. It also occurs to me this morning as I type this–this is how my mind works; as I type I start thinking who in Scotty’s world would die from this? and immediately I went to the grandparents. When I think about ages and so forth I realize how old Scotty’s grandparents–and his parents–have to be now that he’s in his forties and the youngest of three; and I realize I’ve always alluded to their being more relatives on the Diderot side but have never really explored it any further than that. I touched on the Bradley side of the family a little bit more than usual in Who Dat Whodunnit, but for the most part, at least for Scotty, his family primarily consists of his siblings, his parents, his Diderot grandparents, and the boys. Maybe this is the time to explore the extended family a bit more?

I don’t know, I was kind of torn about whatever the next Scotty may be; I have a list of titles to chose from and some amorphous ideas about what the next one will be, ranging from Hollywood South Hustle to Bywater Bohemia Bourgie to Congo Square Conga–I have so many of these titles already thought up, you can rest assured that I will never run out of Scotty titles–and the plots to go with them. Scotty plots are always amorphous and ambiguous when I start writing them; I don’t feel like I did the entertainment industry and movie stars the proper treatment in Murder in the Rue Ursulines, which, if you will recall, was originally intended to be a Scotty book, and then was adapted into a Chanse instead. The original idea behind Hollywood South Hustle was that Scotty would be minding his own business as he walked home from his parents (or the bars) when someone shoots at him in front of a walled-in house on one of the side streets in the lower Quarter, because it turns out from behind he can pass for a Brad Pitt-like movie star who has moved to New Orleans and is being targeted for some reason–and this draws him into the weird world of Hollywood celebrity. I don’t know that I would use that same opening and methodology of drawing Scotty into the case–particularly now that he and the boys have sort of adopted Frank’s college student nephew–but there’s also a good local scandal from the last ten year about the film industry I could use; and perhaps graft that onto another abandoned idea for a Scotty–the book I was going to write next when Katrina happened; Hurricane Party Hoedown, because I was interested in exploring the corruption of wealth and power, in which the young scion of a wealthy Louisiana family becomes obsessed with a a handsome young gay man and ends up throwing acid in his face, only to escape to Europe to avoid prosecution and now, ten years later, the runaway heir is returning to New Orleans to face the music and his victim is obviously worried. (One night as I sat in my easy chair wishing I was finished with Royal Street Reveillon and thinking about the next Scotty and going through all the story ideas I have for him, it occurred to me how I could graft that particular story onto the movie scandal and tie the two separate storylines into one book; I may go ahead and do that.)

But once I get everything unfinished here in the Lost Apartment under control I am going to start writing Chlorine. That is the next and most important thing for me to get done, and in order to get to that I have to get this other stuff finished. As I was organizing my files and filing last night I realized that over the last month or so I have started a ridiculous amount of short stories without finishing a first draft of any of them: “Smoky Mountain Rest Stop”, “Festival of the Redeemer”, “You Won’t See Me”, the Sherlock story, “He Didn’t Kill Her”, and “Gossip”–in addition to all the unfinished ones I already have on hand, which is frankly insane. But today I am going to work on the Sherlock story, get back to the Secret Project, and start writing down ideas for the next Scotty.

And while I am doing that, I am going to clean my apartment and maybe even do a little bit of pruning with the books–which are slowly but surely starting to take over the apartment again.

Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and stay safe.

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When You Say Nothing At All

Oh, Carnival. Every year you come into our lives and turn almost everything normal (gassing up the car; picking up the mail; making groceries) into an ordeal that has to be carefully planned with only slightly less reliance on timing as a Navy SEAL rescue attempt. Add in the fact that going to work after the first weekend of parades always feels surreal; why are we at work when it’s Carnival? But yesterday and tonight are the break nights of the non-stop madness; there are three parades every other night this week down the Avenue, with two Saturday afternoon and five pretty much running all day Sunday. Saturday night is Endymion, which comes down Canal Street and gives the Uptown route a much-needed breather.

Yesterday was quite strange; I felt like I wasn’t actually participating in my life; I was more like watching more than anything, which is always a weird feeling. I slept well, so that wasn’t it, I just felt…oddly disassociated, if that makes any sense? It sort of does to me, but I am not certain it adequately describes precisely the way I felt all day. I was able to do my job properly, and I was able to answer emails and function with everyone like I would normally….but I just felt…off.

It’s weird, and I think I am just going to go ahead and blame it on the parades this past weekend–which got me out of my normal routine.

I did do some writing, though, which was nice. Not on the Secret Project, but I did work on the two short stories that are in progress–but of course not the one that’s due on March 31st. I probably should get started on that sometime soon, probably.

But the voice and the character for “Festival of the Redeemer” AND “Smoky Mountain Rest Stop” are coming through, loud and clear! If I don’t do it now I may not find them when I need to write them!

And this–so you will know, and your children will someday know, is why Greg is not quite right in the head.

It also occurred to me that part of the reason I felt off yesterday was because of my body. I’m still getting used to how it feels to work out again regularly, and (spoiler alert!) I like how my body feels. Sure, the muscles are tired sometimes–and climbing the stairs at work remains challenging sometimes–but the truth of the matter is that I’d rather my muscles struggle with their stairs because they’re been worked out and are tired rather than just being tired from lethargy and lack of exercise.  It’s weird having to get used to sleeping well again; sleeping so restfully that I can wake up early and not be foggy and tired all day; and the way everything feels is just…a good feeling, you know?

And being stretched? Feeling the stretch and loss of tightness in my muscles, especially in my back? Is fucking fantastic.

And, truth be told, the writing went well yesterday–even if it wasn’t anything I should have been working on, working on something is working on something, and it’s kind of a cool thing, you know? “Festival” is a twisty story with a lot of turns and a lot of a kind of emotional release for me; the fact the story, which I’d been thinking about for years, kind of came to me from watching The Talented Mr. Ripley again was an added bonus. I know where the story is going and I know how it’s going to end, and I know how to structure it to get me there, which puts me a lot further ahead with it than I am with other stories.

Although I also finally figured out how to continue on with “Never Kiss a Stranger,” which is also cool. Maybe the working out is helping clear my mind? One can hope, at any rate.

Tomorrow is the tricky day; I am not sure how to deal with when I am going to the gym. I’m not sure when the gym closes tomorrow, so I might have to suck it up, get up early, and go before work. Heavy heaving sigh. I guess I could call them today and find out.

And on that note tis back to the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader!

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Seven Year Ache

SATURDAY and the first weekend of parades! There are a ridiculous amount of them today: (Pontchartrain, Choctaw, and Freret this afternoon; Pygmalion and Sparta tonight), starting at one and following each other. Theoretically, there’s a break between afternoon and evening parades, but since they rarely start on time and are frequently delayed, I suspect there will be no such break today; or if there is one, it won’t be for very long.

Yesterday, despite getting off work early, the traffic home was horrendous. I had to run uptown to get the mail and had intended to get groceries as well, but I guess the parades were already started lining up on Tchoupitoulas, which forced all uptown/downtown traffic onto Magazine, Prytania, and St. Charles. I was unable to get to the grocery store–I’m going to try again this morning, despite the very real possibility I won’t be able to park anywhere near the Lost Apartment once I get back–but the first parade isn’t until one this afternoon, so I’m hopeful it won’t be an impossible task. I did get home, got started on the laundry and put a load into the dishwasher before heading to the gym–yes, that’s right; I made it to the gym during parade season and no, I don’t want a cookie. In the past my workouts always got derailed during Carnival–in fact, the last time I started going to the gym regularly Carnival broke the habit and I didn’t go back. So I am determined this year–no matter how difficult it might be–to get to the gym during Carnival this year. It will require some finesse, but I think I can manage to get it handled this year. I am really liking the way the working out is making me feel–and I’m sleeping better than I have in years. That, alone, makes it worthwhile. So, in a little bit I’m going to head uptown to get the mail–a package was delivered yesterday–and then I am heading to the grocery store; I only need a few things, so the entire trip–including the mail–shouldn’t be more than an hour, max.

I also got some more writing done yesterday–just a smidge, not very much–but I am hoping to get some more done today before the parades arrive. If the first starts at one, it probably won’t be here to the Neighborhood of the Nine Muses until around two-ish (which is why I think there really won’t be much of a break today between parades).

It was cold out on the parade route last night–it’s still chilly today, with a high in the low sixties–but it will be sunny, so all I need is a sweatshirt rather than a jacket, and of course a cap to cover my baldness, which feels the cold so much faster than the rest of me. We only were out there last night for about half an hour at most; we wandered up during Cleopatra (I was finishing the laundry during Oshun), caught some beads, and wandered back home, choosing to skip Alla and rest up for today’s insanity. It was much more crowded than I thought it would be–it’s never very crowded on the first night, but then it also usually rains on the first night–and everyone was having a good time and was very friendly. I think that’s one of the major parts of parade season no one thinks about or talks about–the fact that the entire stretch of the parade route is crowded with people and there’s never any problems or issues; if there are, they are few and far between and you don’t really hear about them. Everyone is in a good mood; people share their liquor with strangers; and it’s just a big genial party. That is almost as much fun as catching things.

Yeah, right. No, catching things is the BEST part.

At first, too, I wasn’t doing very well–I was misjudging throws and missing things. Someone from one of the floats threw a purple and gold LSU football at me–I was bedecked in LSU gear from head to toe–and it glanced off my fingers and bounced off a different direction. But I didn’t even have time to feel bad about missing the football because a handful of beads were coming right for my hand–and in true Wonder Woman bullets-and-bracelets fashion, my hand darted up and grabbed them.

I may start out rusty, but once I’m warmed up, I am plucking things from the air left and right.

So, I am hoping to finish the laundry that’s currently in the dryer, then I am going to get a cup of coffee to go and head uptown to get my package and then swing by the grocery store on the way home. I hope to have time to get some writing done this morning, and then of course it’s parades parades parades all day long.

I also started writing yet another short story this week with the working title “Smoky Mountain Rest Stop” (I will most likely shorten it at some point to “Rest Stop,” I don’t know. Maybe I’ll leave it the same.). I don’t know where it came from; I was busy doing data entry and work and happily listening to Spotify (I created a GAY DANCE MIX playlist on there, and it’s quite delightful, actually) when the idea came to me. I just envisioned a woman, driving from Chattanooga north on I-75, going somewhere she doesn’t want to, and  needing to stop because she has to use the bathroom–urgently. Incidentally, she isn’t from Chattanooga, but the story is set on the highway heading north between Chattanooga and Knoxville, through the Smoky Mountains. I am very familiar with that drive, as I have made it any number of times in the past twenty years since my parents moved to Kentucky; it’s a gorgeous stretch of road–the views are spectacular; the Smoky Mountains are quite beautiful–but it’s also extremely terrifying as well. The highway clings to the side of mountains and sometimes the climb is difficult, and then of course you have to be careful going down the other side because if you don’t pay attention suddenly you’re doing more than a hundred miles an hour and you don’t want to be doing that because of sharp curves and bastard eighteen-wheelers. It’s also very dark once the sun goes down, which makes it even scarier. I don’t know what the story is going to be–some amorphous form of it came to me last night as I relaxed in my easy chair with a glass of wine and mindlessly allowing Youtube autoplay keep showing me music videos. I’m not sure, as I said, which direction I want the story to go in, or where it’s going to go, but I have a very strong sense of my main character (Aimee), and that’s a good thing.

And on that note, I hear that the dryer has stopped, so it’s time to fold some laundry before I run those pesky errands. Happy Saturday, Constant Reader!

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