Money Can’t Buy You Class

Saturday and the start of a three day weekend. Huzzah? HUZZAH!

I slept well last night–despite some odd dreams–and even slept later than usual this morning, which was strange. (Never fear, alarm clock Scooter finally woke me up because it was past his feeding time.) I am still a bit groggy this morning, but I am certain my coffee will wake me up and make me lucid eventually. Yesterday was an exciting day of data entry and condom-packing, after which I went to the gym (HUZZAH), and then came home to read Robyn Gigl’s By Way of Sorrow. I am really enjoying this book, I want to be clear–but Scooter of course climbed into my lap and went to sleep while I was reading, and of course–it being his superpower–I dozed off as well. I do not want to give the impression that I am not enjoying this book, because I really am–but between being tired and all the writing I’ve been doing lately, I just haven’t been able to carve out the time to read like I would like. I do plan on finishing it today, though–as well as writing.

I didn’t write again yesterday, which has all my alarm bells going off (YOU BROKE THE CYCLE NOW YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO WRITE ANYMORE OH MY GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU), but I am also aware it’s kind of like going to the gym; once I sit down and start seriously writing again, I’ll get back into it and enjoy myself and next thing you know I will have written multiple thousands of words and all will be right in the world again. Honestly, I am not sure why I go through this kind of thing all the time–whether it’s writing or going to the gym, anything I actually enjoy doing, really; I always have to make myself do it and then find myself enjoying the hell out of it once I do. I am easing myself into working out again after a lengthy break of just over a week–but I realized, as I lifted yesterday, that I don’t have to be so easy on myself after missing a couple of workouts; my body has adjusted to working out again and thus I am not only going to not be sore, it’s not going to be a strain. Yesterday was a return to three sets of everything and guess what? It was easy. Moving up in weights as I intend to do on Monday (the gym is open normal hours on Monday; it’s a holiday for me, and is only open from 9-12 tomorrow, and I can’t see myself getting my act together and to the gym in that narrow window of time tomorrow morning) is what I probably should have done this week, despite the lay off due to the tooth…and so yes, it’s time to start actually pushing myself. I am going to keep adding weight this month every week, with a goal to changing the work out into separate body parts beginning in August, and possibly adding a day or two of cardio in September. I am excited about this–and it’s only a few months later than when I had planned to do so this year already.

I also need to finish a load of laundry this morning and finish the cleaning of the downstairs that is dramatically overdue. I have the entire weekend to get the cleaning done, but step by step and piece by piece is always a greay way to get things started. I also think it’s time to clean the vacuum cleaner filter–I am trying to take care of this one better so it will last longer and continue working longer. I also want to figure out what to do with these boxes under my desk–I have four boxes of folders under my desk (filled, of course) that i want to move out of here. I probably should put them in the attic, but that would mean taking things out of the attic to make room for them, and that would mean going through boxes of books–again, not a bad thing and something that needs to be done, but just thinking about doing it makes me feel tired.

Sigh. And that right there is the classic example of how things never wind up getting done around here.

After I went to the gym yesterday, I detoured on my way home and walked back on the uptown side of Jackson Avenue, which is the Garden District. (Jackson Avenue is the border between my neighborhood, the Lower Garden District, and the enclaves of the wealthy, the actual Garden District.) I took numerous photographs with my phone as I did, posting some of them to Instagram/Facebook, but there are of course any number of others in my phone that I didn’t actually post. Taking these pictures is of a two-fold purpose; one, to have things to post on my social media, and two, to give me the opportunity to look around at the beauty of my city and drink it in, actually making me notice and pay attention to how beautiful this city, particularly the part of it in which I live, is–and by doing so, reconnect with it and appreciate it again. Despite the heat, I am thinking that I need to be doing this more frequently, and expanding into other neighborhoods as well. Oh, I have to pick up the mail? Let me detour on a street in Uptown and take some pictures. The heat and humidity, of course, are always oppressive, but at the same time I need to be out in it and experience that, if I intend to continue writing about New Orleans, noting the weather and thinking of other, new ways to describe how the weather feels here, its peculiarities and how it feels on the skin, on the body, and so forth.

Or, I will let laziness win as I so frequently do.

And on that note, I am going to read an Art Taylor short story while enjoying my coffee, and then get my day actually started. Happy Saturday, Constant Reader.

Cardigan

Yes, it’s cardigan/sweater/light jacket weather in New Orleans again; autumn has fallen. And yes, I recognize our weather undoubtedly would feel like spring/early summer to some people–lows in the sixties, highs in the seventies–but this is a thirty degree drop from the dreadful days of August/September, and this year it lasted into October. There’s always been something unsettling to me about the fall season–as things wither and die, as the sun recedes and is only around for about nine hours per day, and the season of rest for the earth approaches–which is undoubtedly why All Hallows’ Eve was dated around that time of change; and why the ancients undoubtedly believed the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was so thin at this time of year.

It’s also lovely because now it’s crockpot cooking weather, which I love–soups and chilis and meatballs with gravy! Yum!

I went to bed early last night, unable to continue watching the election results. I didn’t want to check this morning when I woke up, frankly, but one cannot live in denial forever. Obviously, there are no final results and it isn’t over, as I discovered as I woke up, but my pessimism remains firmly in place. I don’t like being proven right in these instances, but I deep down believed this was going to be close, with the possibility of the results not going the way I wanted and going the way I feared. It’s not quite as shocking to me as it might be to other white people; as a gay man, I’m quite used to being hated abstractly by a majority of Americans and having my rights considered, at best, unimportant and at worst not worth thinking about. I have seen the face of American white hatred and have, in fact, been dealing with it for most of my adult life–and it’s not just white Americans, either. There’s enough homophobia and transphobia out there for white Americans to share with people of color–it’s the one thing white Americans are willing to share with people of color.

But we survived the Reagan administration, when they were letting HIV/AIDS kill us–and not-so-secretly hoping it would kill all of us–and we survived the second Bush presidency, so if the worst comes to worst yet again, I am sure somehow we can survive another four years of this. Am I tired of it all? Yes, I am. Will I go on fighting? I have to, because what other choice do I have?

It’s very easy to give in to despair, which of course is what they want us to do. They want us to go quietly into that good night, disappear from public view, get swept back under the rug or securely locked back into our closets. But I do know I am not going to listen to any analysis; I am not interested in “understanding” the other side any more than they are interested in “understanding” me and my values and my beliefs. All I am interested in is the final results, and getting on with my life for as long as I can.

I worked on “A Dirge in the Dark” last night some, in bits and pieces here and there, because I couldn’t truly focus on anything for very long. I think the story is going to turn out really well, actually, which pleases me. I’ll try to spend some more time with it today and tonight, see if I can get that draft finished, and I also need to start working with Bury Me in Shadows again. I need to rouse myself from this stupor and start getting things taken care of again. That’s pretty much all I can do, and all of the negativity of the last year or so needs to be ignored, put away, shunted aside and locked up in a dark corner of my mind. I need to focus on me, and my career, and the things I have to get done; and not worry about things that are beyond my control.

I had also intended to go to the gym last night, but I was tired and got home late from the office. I decided to take the night off from working out and just go tonight when I get home from work; at least tomorrow I don’t have to get up at six in the morning, and then I can go on Friday and Sunday quite happily. There’s not an LSU game this weekend I don’t think, so I can spend all day Saturday cleaning and writing and reading–as I mentioned after the disappointment of last weekend’s LSU game, I no longer am vested in either the conference or national races, so I only have to watch LSU games and can ignore the rest of them quite happily while getting things done that I need to get done.

I want to finish reading The Hot Rock, and I also want to get back to both the Short Story Project as well as the Diversity Project. I feel like a lot of things have slid this year, and I need to snap out of this pandemic stupor and get back to being on top of things. There’s no telling when any of this might end, and I need to stop pinning thoughts on my mental bulletin board with post-its attached reading for when the pandemic is over. We’re going into month seven, with no end in sight, and I can’t keep pushing things back on my lists–no matter how much I want to.

I feel like this morning, in some ways, I’ve woken up, shaken off the malaise and stupor of the last year, and am seeing everything with a cold, dispassionate, clear eye. We shall see how long it lasts, of course–I know I’ll get tired again this afternoon, and run out of steam at some point, and of course going to the gym tonight will be exhausting–but might as well make some hay while I can.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines.

22

One of the annual things about November that I enjoy watching–but don’t participate in–is Nanowrimo. Maybe I should participate, I don’t know. For many years I never needed to–I wrote the 95k first draft of the Kansas book in thirty days–but as bad as I have been lately about writing, maybe I should have taken part in it this year. Anyway, it’s always enjoyable for me to watch other writers working hard, being productive, and hitting goals. Well done, all of you! Keep on keeping on, and keep on being inspiring to those of us too afraid to officially set these sorts of goals and accountability!

This morning I am going to go vote. I had intended to early vote–just stroll over to the Smoothie King Center the last Saturday of early voting–but forgot all about until it was too late that Saturday–and my work schedule didn’t permit going the last two weekdays that followed thereafter. So, this morning I shall bundle up and trundle over the International School on Camp Street to vote, like I inevitably and invariably always do. It never takes very long–I think the longest line I’ve ever been in was four or five people–and then I can walk back home and get ready for the day’s work. Huzzah? Huzzah.

Boy, do I miss the crepe myrtles.

Yesterday, though, was a good day. I didn’t get everything finished that I wanted to, but I made progress rolling the stone up the hill, and I may even be able to start getting even closer to the top. Stranger things have happened, you know. I am starting to feel even a bit more confident about myself and life in general again. I did start rereading the story fragments that make up both “A Dirge in the Dark” and “Condos, for Sale or Rent”–I’ll get to “Please Die Soon” today, I hope–and there’s possibilities there. I’m not really sure of what direction either story is going to go in, and I am not entirely sure how either story ends; but I do think I should be able to get finished first rough drafts of all of them sooner rather than later.

I’ve also decided that I need to get my shit together with the first ten chapters of Bury Me in Shadows before I move on to the final fifteen chapters; there are things I need to set up in those chapters and I also need to strengthen the voice of my main character–as well as make the reader doubt more whether he’s reliable or not as a narrator. And no, that’s not a spoiler…and even if it were, the book won’t be out until late 2021 anyway, so you’d forget by the time the book comes out anyway.

And most importantly, it’s the tone of the book that really matters. That’s going to be the real struggle.

I had dinner with a writer friend in from out of town last night–her daughter goes to Tulane– and we went to Lula, a new place that is located in what used to be a furniture shop on St. Charles for decades whose name I can no longer remember; it was always there, so I never really gave much thought to trying to remember its name–and it will eventually come to me; it’s where we bought Paul’s love seat, which has sadly been tattered and shredded by cats over the years (EDITED TO ADD: the store was Halpern’s; I knew I’d eventually remember!). The service was good, and while we met early for a New Orleans dinner engagement (six pm), it got much more crowded the longer we were there. The food was good–I had the shrimp and grits, and frankly, only in Oxford, Mississippi have I ever had shrimp and grits that was better than mine–and then I walked home. I was very tired by then, and fell into a sad wormhole of Youtube videos about 80’s music (33 80’s Songs You’ve Forgotten! 100 80’s Songs Everyone Grew up With! Fifty 80’s Songs Everyone Remembers!) until I basically dozed off in my easy chair between nine and ten, when I repaired to the bed. Anyway, the dinner was lovely–we discussed writing, publishers, the crime fiction genre–and I always forget how invigorating such conversations always are for me. I love talking to other writers (unless they’re complete assholes–and you know who you are) because it does make me think about my own work more, and what things I could be better at doing (right now, it’s making myself do the work), but I remain ever hopeful that I’ll be able to dive back into my work and get it moving again sometime soon. I did pull the first ten chapters of Bury Me in Shadows into a single document for editing last night, so that’s something, at any rate.

Tonight when I get home from work I am going to go to the gym–despite the slight soreness in my back, which I totally know why I’m sore and what I did wrong, so I am going to skip the lat pulldowns, or use a different bar–and then I am going to come home and read The Hot Rock and/or write for the majority of the evening. I know I don’t want to check the election results or follow them the way I usually do–I don’t think my stomach, psyche, or anything can handle it–but I am probably going to have to take a look before I go to bed so I don’t have to wake up in the morning to bad news. I’m not kidding when I say I am terrified by this election, and can’t remember another such time when the soul of the country was on the ballot the way it is now. I thought the 2008 election was an important one for the direction of the country, same with 1992…but I don’t ever remember living through one this important. This must be how people felt about the election of 1860–which basically boiled down to, are we voting to save the union or are we voting for civil war? We know how that turned out, and this election feels very similar to that one–but at least then they didn’t have 24/7 news and social media. (Which is part of the reason, I now realize, why I’ve been reading Vidal’s Lincoln.) I can remember fearing for the future of the country on election nights before, but I don’t ever remember the existential dread and fear that I been pushing down deep inside of my soul the last few weeks. I really no longer trust my fellow Americans, I’m afraid, to be decent human beings–and given my previously held low opinion of humanity (working service and at the airport stomped most of my optimism about my fellow Americans right out of my system), that’s really saying something.

But I have always taking voting to be my sacred privilege and duty; I have nothing but contempt for those who do not hold it in the same regard that I do. Yes, there are problems with a two-party system (we’re really seeing that right now), and yes, many times you are voting for the lesser of two evils than for a candidate who mirrors your beliefs and values–but this country was founded on the basic principle of citizens voting and being participants in the process–abdicating that responsibility, regardless of how deeply cynical you might feel about voting and everything else about our political system, is in and of itself a statement of contempt for the country, your fellow citizens, and probably the most unpatriotic thing you could do other than sell state secrets to unfriendly foreign governments. If you don’t like the system, work to change it. That’s how it works, and how it was always intended to work. The founders imbued the citizenry with the right to change things if we so desired–and yes, they were racist misogynists with a side of homophobia and religious zealotry, but they designed the government and the system so that it could be changed, course corrections made, and always improved…but it has to start with voting. Whenever someone complains about something to do with the government or the system, I stop listening the minute they try to justify their not casting of a ballot–because they aren’t interested in actually making change; they are only interested in complaining, while at the same time claiming moral superiority by not participating in a “rigged” or “unfair” system. Well, guess what? Our judiciary is also a flawed, rigged, unfair system–but you don’t get to “not participate” in our legal system simply because you think it’s a failing system–as you will soon find out if you are accused of a crime. You don’t get to tell the police or the district attorney that you don’t believe in the system and therefore you won’t participate–that’s the fastest route to a jail sentence I can think of. And maybe it’s a failed analogy–always possible–because you have to be accused of something before you get dragged into the legal system–perhaps the better analogy would be taxes. You can’t get out of your taxes because you don’t believe in the system.

Although it would be interesting if someone sued the IRS to get out of paying taxes because they felt disenfranchised by the electoral college (taxation without representation)–but I’ll leave that to the lawyers.

And on that note, tis time to get on with my day. Stay safe, Constant Reader, and stay sane. Regardless of today’s outcomes, we will endure.

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

And here it is Wednesday, middle of the week and a storm on the horizon. It looks as though Zeta’s eye will be passing us to the east–possibly crossing over New Orleans East and Lake Borgne on its way northeast–and so there will be storm surge outside the lake levees. So, it should make for an interesting day, to say the least; the possibility of thunderstorms and high winds and street flooding always makes for an interesting day of getting to and from work.

We’ve cancelled services this afternoon because of the storm, so I only have to go into the office for the morning appointments. Ah, well, I think I might go back to the Cynical 70’s Film Festival while I make condom packs this afternoon; outside of Stephen King films (Carrie, Christine) my venture into horror for October has thus far been enormously disappointing; although a Scream marathon could be fun…

I went to the gym last night after work and had my second workout of the week; it was quite marvelous, even though the outer outer bands of Zeta had made it insanely humid and damp; I was a sweaty mess when I got to the gym, but breezed through my workout in very little time and with very little irritation and then walked back home in the humidity. I was sopping wet by the time I got home and made my protein shake, but despite the discomfort of thoroughly soaked through clothing my body felt terrific. Constant Reader, I am so happy to be working out again. I can’t believe I allowed myself to fall out of the habit…I know, I know, it happened because I was injured and my work schedule shifted and changed and I never adapted, but I allowed it to happen, and it was one of the stupidest things I did in my fifties. I mean, it is what it is, of course, and I cannot go back and change it–but I’m also not going to spend a lot of time beating myself up about it. So I got serious about working out again in my sixtieth year? That’s actually something to be proud of, you know? (See how I turned that around?)

I’m trying to see the positive in everything still–what I call the Ted Lasso effect–and it’s not so bad. It really isn’t that difficult to remain upbeat–it’s much easier than one might think. Granted, it’s very easy to get sucked down into the dark pits of despair–really, it doesn’t take much at all–but I am trying to resist that siren song of darkness and keep focusing on the positives in my life. I do work that I love in a city that I love with the man I love; what could possibly be more of a blessing?

Sure, money would be nice, but if I have to trade one of the above in exchange for it, no thanks.

However, after my workout last night I was exhausted when I got back to the Lost Apartment, so after having my protein shake and showering, I retired to my easy chair and tried to stay awake as I went through a series as I rewatched a couple of episodes of Schitt’s Creek and Ted Lasso. I find that both shows are remarkably comforting in an oddly endearing sort of way, and rewatching something when your brain and body are both tired is much easier than trying to focus and follow something you’ve not seen before. I slept extremely well last night–deep, restful sleep; I even woke up about half an hour before the alarm went off this morning but of course stayed in bed until it started clanging away–and I feel very good this morning. It’s really quite marvelous not to feel that tightness in my muscles anymore; it’s nice that they feel worked and stretched again. I almost can’t wait for my next workout tomorrow after work. There’s a barre class on Saturday morning I want to try–it’s a combination of ballet and yoga stretching–since I think it will be fun, and more stretching isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Not to mention the regular routine satisfies my need for order and routine! Always a plus, you know?

And on that note, I am going to eat breakfast and get ready to face the day. Have a lovely, happy, healthy Wednesday, Constant Reader!

Delicate

I can’t get over how much better my muscles feel after simply one workout with weights and stretching them out. Seriously. It’s like all the kinks and aches and tightness not only are gone, but it’s like they were never there in the first place. Obviously, my body has missed and craved the exercise. I cannot wait to get home from work today so I can head down to the gym and get in workout #2 of the week. Also–in examining my gym’s website and exercise class schedule, I see that they have a barre class on Saturday mornings I can attend–and barre is something I’ve been wanting to try; I really want to improve my flexibility again. I know I’ll never get back to the ridiculous, freakish flexibility of my teens and twenties again—but regular stretching will be most lovely, quite frankly, and I like the idea of regaining some of it. I am really looking forward to my second workout tonight after work….

We still appear to be in the center of the Cone for Zeta, but the cone continues to drift to the east. At the moment, the projected landfall is seven pm on Wednesday night; which means in theory I should be able to see all my clients and still get home before landfall. Outer bands will, of course, be problematic; but I think we should be okay even with a direct hit from Zeta. Again, the primary concern will be wind and the potential loss of power, but honestly. It’s almost fucking Halloween, for Christ’s sake.

Last night we finished watching season one of Servant on Apple Plus, and I have to say, wow. Dark and disturbing and full of surprises, it was hard to watch sometimes…and yet I couldn’t look away. It was about pain and guilt and suffering, the lengths people will go to stop hurting, and I certainly didn’t see the twist ending of the season coming. I’m frankly non-plussed that Lauren Ambrose got no award recognition for her performance as the emotionally damaged wife and mother–she was stunning in the role; and it wasn’t an easy part. Playing a woman in every stage of a complete mental an emotional breakdown, fooling herself because truth and reality were too much for her mind to handle, watching her performance was both painful to watch but impossible to stop watching; a tour de force; one of the best performances by an actress I’ve seen in a television series. It will be returning in January for a second season, and there’s no telling what will be the second season; there are any number of directions the story can go in. Just chilling and amazing, and we were on the edge of our seats the entire time. It was the perfect choice for Halloween season viewing, quite frankly.

It’s very dark outside my windows this morning. The time change is coming this weekend–an extra hour of sleep is always appreciated, of course, but at the same time I am dreading absolutely coming home from work in the dark every afternoon. I am definitely going to the gym after I get home from work tonight; my muscles feel marvelous still from Sunday’s workout. I can’t get over how much better I feel than I did before; I need to remember this whenever I have one of those “oh I don’t feel like going” moments about the gym. There’s also no telling how long the gym will stay open–whether we go back to gyms being closed for the pandemic, or whether it will survive the economic downturn–and so I must take full advantage of my membership for as long as I can.

The irony that the year I decided to get back to work on my body was the year a pandemic shut everything down and slowly but surely wrecked the economy has not escaped me.

November looms on the horizon as well. The weather is cooling down dramatically here; yesterday morning I actually had to wear a jacket to the office, but of course my car sat in the sun all day so was quite toasty warm by the time I got off work and drove home. It’s currently seventy three, with a projected high of eighty one, which means no need for a jacket this morning, and also means it will be hot in the car when I get off work this afternoon (early evening? I’m never sure where five o’clock officially falls in the divisions of the day).

I tried to watch the new version of Rebecca last night while I waited for Paul to get home. I knew I was inevitably going to be disappointed, perhaps to the point of not even finishing; the original film is a classic and one of my all-time favorites, and of course the book is still fucking amazing every time I reread it. (I always manage to see it in a whole new way practically each time I read it again; it’s absolutely a classic.) As I watched, the fact they filmed it in color was too jarring and took me out of it completely. Rebecca is one of those stories whose impact is really lost when removed from black and white cinematography; the use of light and shadow for creepy, eerie effect is completely lost in the splashy colors (and I just cannot ever picture Maxim de Winter in a yellow suit; Jay Gatsby he was most definitely not). I still think of it as a noir classic (both film and book; if you think du Maurier was a romance writer, you really need to reread and rethink everything of hers you’ve read), and while the term neo noir was coined specifically for noir filmed in color, very few films actually manage to capture the noir mood in color (although Body Heat, Masquerade, Chinatown, and No Way Out all did a great job..I’ve been thinking about writing about neo-noir films lately; just another essay for my collection that no one will ever read.

Today I am hoping to get some editing done on my lunch break and possibly get the email inbox finally cleaned out and caught up; fingers crossed. I feel very awake this morning–yesterday I was dragging a bit, and of course my muscles were all terribly tired from Sunday’s workout–and I am, as ever, hopeful I can get everything done I need to get done. No word on whether the hurricane is cancelling work yet tomorrow–I really hope it doesn’t, frankly; I’d much rather spend the day with my clients.

And on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely Tuesday, Constant Reader.

You Need To Calm Down

So, I went to the gym for the first time in nearly five months yesterday morning.

Apparently there’s another tropical storm out there with New Orleans in its Cone of Uncertainty; Wednesday night seems to be when it’s projected to come ashore; they’re saying Category One is about as big as Zeta will get, given conditions in the Gulf and so forth, and while that’s not nearly as scary as the bigger storm, it’s still a cause for concern amongst New Orleanians. We’ve been incredibly lucky this year in this insane season of storms, but every time someone else gets it instead you can’t help but feel that your odds for a direct hit are exponentially increasing every time that happens. And it’s always stressful when there’s a storm coming your way–that whole losing power thing is the least of it, of course, but at least it’s not the dog days of summer right now and losing power doesn’t mean melting into a puddle inside the Lost Apartment.

THANK GOD.

I know I loathe cold weather, but I am also all about the air conditioning.

The track has starting shifting to the east–sorry, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida panhandle–and local meteorologists are saying the longer it stays stationary and slow-moving where it is, the more likely it is that it will continue to shift east. But I’d still rather not have that in the back of my head for the next three days, you know what I mean?

So I went to my new gym yesterday morning–it was quite chilly out for a Sunday morning in October in New Orleans–and did my first workout since May. It was marvelous. I was smart and only did one set of 15 reps with low weight and exercised every body part; I stretched for a good while before going to the weight machines, and did 100 crunches to conclude before walking back home. As always, one must start slow–one set this first week, two sets the next, then three in the third week and then add weight in the fourth–in order to get your body used to exercising again. In about two months of this (full body workout three times per week) I’ll change the workout to different body parts per workout–chest and back one day, shoulders and arms the second, and legs the third–and make the workouts more intense and difficult, in order to begin pushing myself and getting my heart rate up and making my muscles grow so they can burn fat more efficiently. My goal is to get my weight down to 200 by March, and then reassess my goals and where I want to be physically by Memorial Day.

I used to always balance out my workout goals based on gay holidays when I would go out in public with the inevitable goal of removing my shirt at some point. I always wanted to peak at Southern Decadence. hen it was just maintenance through Halloween and Carnival, bulking until Memorial Day and then lean down for Decadence for peak lean muscularity.

Ah, my shallow youth.

I do wonder, though, if having those goals made the workouts easier to focus on and stick to; not using those times as an endgame to work towards might have had something to do with the loss of intensity and interest in regular workouts, along with not caring as much about a healthier diet. Points to ponder.

We started watching the new Nicole Kidman HBO series The Undoing last night, and were quite taken in by it. Kidman is always a fine actress, and the rest of the cast, which includes Hugh Grant and Lily Rabe, is also quite good. We also are continuing with the very strange M. Night Shyamalan series Servant on Apple Plus, which continues to be very strange and remarkably disturbing. It’s quite good, creepy, and rather intense. I’m still not entirely certain I know what’s going on in that house, to be honest, and I’m also not really sure who I am supposed to be rooting for. The episode we watched last night, which primarily focused on Rupert Grint’s character, was rather confusing. But…it’s also M. Night Shyamalan, which means it’s probably intended to be confusing.

I slept very well last night, and I’m not sore this morning, which is, of course, always a plus. My muscles feel tired, in that good way from working them, rather than tight and tired from non-use. Today will be a day off from the gym–I still need to buy a lock to take with me–and then after work tomorrow I’ll walk over there and get in a workout. I’m thinking Saturdays will be the day when I go and use the aerobics studio for my own cardio workout–if, of course, I can still remember my routines from my classes all those years ago–and do weights on Sunday. It means rearranging and rescheduling my weekends so I can make sure I can still get things done and stay on top of things, but adding some structure to my weekends cannot be a bad thing. Structure is always important for me–as well as routine–and I feel like that is what has been missing in my life since the pandemic began–having some sort of structure and routine to keep up with.

The Saints managed to win yesterday–and it wasn’t a guarantee, either, until the final drive–and so we had a good Louisiana football weekend. I am quite pleased with how both LSU and the Saints played this weekend; although one can never be sure if the LSU win actually meant anything, to be honest. Sure, South Carolina managed to knock off Auburn the week before–but in this crazy college football season no teams (besides Clemson and Alabama) seem to have any kind of identity; they are all playing all over the map, and outside those two top teams, it seems like everyone else are all about the same–anyone can win over anyone on any given weekend. Should make the play-offs race interesting, and regardless, whoever winds up winning it all this year should have an asterisk next to their name because the season is shortened, weird, and staggered.

And the pandemic seems to be kicking into high gear yet again, just like the Spanish flu pandemic did all those years ago.

But I am trying something new: optimism. That was why I enjoyed Ted Lasso so much–the show was about kindness, understanding, and optimism–and while all of those things have been in short supply for this horrific year (partly why the show resonated so much; it served as a reminder of what we can be if we choose to be), I am going to try to keep all of those things in mind going forward…knowing full well there are going to be times when it’s not going to be easy to keep any of those mentalities and life philosophies in the forward part of my life and mind…but also understanding and trying to remember that it can be a choice.

And on that note, it is off to the spice mines. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader–I certainly intend to.

Sparks Fly

Sunday morning coming down–as if; although there have been any number of Sunday mornings when I was doing precisely that; often sleeping late or stumbling home in the early morning hours to sleep until around noon or so. I’m not quite sure how I managed to do all of that–and for years would go out again around six or seven on Sunday for Tea Dance, to come home around ten or eleven sloppy drunk yet again. It’s been a good hot minute since I’ve gone out in the evening to gay bars, visiting my old haunts and so forth; yet the pandemic has certainly made any nostalgic trips to the Fruit Loop impossible and impractical.

We joined a gym yesterday at long last; another one in our neighborhood and within walking distance, and while it’s a bit more of a slog than going to the old gym was–maybe a ten to fifteen minute walk rather than a five–it’s nice to belong to a gym again; it’s nice that it’s still in the neighborhood; and there are many different ways of walking there–so I can explore the neighborhood even more each time I walk to and fro. It’s nice, if small, and I am very excited to walk over there this morning and start putting my body through its paces yet again. The main thing for me is to remember that I need to be cautious, start slowly with lower weights, and build up reps and sets gradually. But it feels very terrific to be going to the gym again, working out again, and while i may not be as fanatical about it as I was in the wake of Katrina–I am hopeful I’ll be able to get going and gradually work myself back into better shape again.

LSU won last night–and while the defense didn’t look terrific, they didn’t look as terrible as they did in the two previous losses. At first, it kind of looked like the same-old, same-old; LSU took the opening kick-off and drove the length of the field behind a true freshman, starting in place of an injured Myles Brennan, in about eight minutes. South Carolina took two or three plays to tie the score on their next possession, but the defense started clamping down. South Carolina continued to have big plays, but that was it–scoring 17 more points in the game while LSU went on to win 52-24. The team is starting to pull together and play better–and considering how many true freshman are starting–LSU is going to be dangerously good in the future. This may be an off year for the Tigers–there’s no telling how many of the remaining games they’ll win, but I certainly am feeling better about our chances to do well this year. I mean, I didn’t go into the season thinking it would be a repeat of last year’s amazing result, but I didn’t expect LSU to lose to two teams they should have beaten.

We also wound up staying up later than we probably should have watching the pairs and ice dance finals from Skate America, but i also slept very well–I almost dozed off a couple of times in my easy chair–and slept later than I wanted to this morning but that’s okay; the combination of going to the gym this morning and getting a lot of work done today should work to enable to sleep really well tonight. I’m not sure what time the Saints game is today–just checked, it’s at noon–but I need to get deeper into the weeds with my book, and I also realized part of my issue with writing lately is getting used to my new computer set-up here in my office; writing on a significantly smaller screen on a MacBook Air is the primary difference here, and one that I shouldn’t be having such an issue adapting to. It could, of course, simply be my innate laziness, but there you go.

It’s cool this morning–it’s in the sixties, and the high is only going to be 75–so it’ll be a nice brisk walk over to the gym–they are only open on Sundays from 9-1; they close early on Sundays to clean everything thoroughly due to the pandemic–and then a brisk walk home to a protein shake and a shower and a plan for the rest of the day. I started rereading the first ten chapters of Bury Me in Shadows yesterday–it’s better than I thought it was, but it still needs tweaking and work–and hope to spend today reading through the last fifteen and making revision notes and so forth. I still have to finish the revision of “The Snow Globe” again, but I honestly think that getting off my ass and exercising again will be the catalyst or impetus to get me off my fat ass and writing again, too. It’s all connected, in some ways, in my mind–working out, writing, etc.–and hopefully I’ll also be able to get my mind and my writing in better shape as I go to the gym more and more.

I know I am probably too hard on myself about everything I do–whether it’s the day job, writing, editing, my body, etc.–but that drive to improve myself and be better is what helps me accomplish things. As I was remembering the other day, so much of my life is out of my control that when the world becomes too overwhelming in its harsh realities, I try to focus on the things I can control. I can control my body and how it looks; whether people read my books and like them is beyond my control but the books themselves are not. I do tend to be lazy–a Greg at rest tends to stay at rest–which is a constant struggle for me; I have trouble between distinguishing when I need to actually rest and recharge vs. when I just am feeling lazy. There’s a difference there, and one I need to be better about recognizing–kind of like having to identify the difference between bad pain (injury) vs. good pain (muscle exhaustion) at the gym when working out. My goal isn’t to get back to the kind of shape I was in post-Katrina–I will never be that lean and small-waisted again; then again, do I need to fit into size 30-31 pants again at my age? No, I really don’t, but I also don’t need to be carrying this extra weight I am, and I’d kind of like to have toned muscles again rather than simply the size that goes with having them. This week is going to be a gradual thing–I am going to stretch thoroughly before working out, the longer walk to and fro will serve as a nice warm-up/cool down, and once I get through this first week of primary focus on weights, I will start adding in the treadmill or stationary bike or some kind of cardiovascular exercise, which is probably what I need more than anything else. The aerobics studio in the gym is always open and available for use when it’s not being used for a class, and i may start doing my own step class again, trying to remember the programs I used to teach twenty years ago–I always preferred doing step than using the cardio machines, but there may be times at the gym when I have no choice–like when there’s a class going on.

As you can no doubt ascertain, I am very excited about going back to the gym. In fact, I shall have precisely one more cup of coffee before I head over there this morning to put my aged body through its paces for the first time since May. Since May.

Lord.

And so, on that note, I think I am going to finish my morning coffee, get my ass in gear, and head over to the gym. May your Sunday be as warm and delightful and amazing as you are, Constant Reader.

The Sound of the Atom Splitting

And here we are at Monday again. Yesterday, much to my dismay, I realized my recent observation about this summer being hotter than normal was correct. Yesterday was the first time–at least that I am aware of–for the city of New Orleans to be under a heat warning, rather than a heat advisory. I actually didn’t know what a heat warning was, so I grimly went to the Google to look it up, and, in case you’re interested, it means a period when the heat index–the combination of heat plus humidity; what it feels like outside–is in excess of 113 for extended periods of time. Yes, it gets hot here, but I don’t recall it being quite that hot before.

Oh, it was set for 10 a.m. to eight p.m. When you’re in a heat warning, you’re advised to not go outside more than you absolutely have to–and outdoor workers are warned to stay hydrated and watch for signs of heat exhaustion/dehydration sickness.

Again: NOT NORMAL.

We are also in a heat advisory today for the same time period. I do recall being in heat advisories before–it usually means we can wear shorts and T-shirts to work–that have lasted a week or two, but it was almost always late July or sometime in August. Never this early in July, and again–a heat warning?

I only went outside twice–once to take the recycling, and a second series during which I lit the charcoal and cooked burgers and cheese dogs–and opening the door to the outside literally felt like opening the oven door to take out a pizza or something. I am actually dreading having to walk out to the car, from the car to the elevators at work, and reversing the process to come home later on in the day. My face felt blasted just from that little time I was outside, and our section of the yard outside the house is pretty well shaded and rarely in direct sunlight.

And it’s only mid-July-ish.

We started watching season two of Dark, this marvelous German show that is rather hard to describe; it’s speculative fiction but it’s also an extraordinary human drama as well. It’s difficult to get into at first, as there are a lot of characters and it can be confusing as the story blocks get set into place and motion, but once it does, it’s riveting. And it’s filmed so well that even those first few episodes of the first season, that are a bit confusing, are riveting because of the use of music, camera angles, shots, and mood, and the acting is pretty stellar as well. I honestly didn’t see how they could do a second season–but the second season is actually better than the first, as we are still finding out exactly what is going on and how everything is all linked together. It reminds me of Orphan Black and Killing Eve in that way; that the show constantly confounds expectations and keeps springing surprises on you.

There’s a forty percent chance of rain this morning, and given how grayish it is outside my windows right now I’m thinking it’s probably a lot higher than that in actuality. We’re also supposed to be subject to thunderstorms tonight as well–which should cool things down a bit–and we’re also forecast to have rain every night until Friday, when the sunshine returns to broil us all alive.

I did not, of course, get any writing done this weekend; but I did make definite progress on the road to getting thoroughly organized, and while that might seem counter-productive, it’s actually kind of helpful in that it helps reset my mind, and knowing I know where things are and I am not surrounded by chaos helps. Then again, the world is in chaos, but like after Katrina, controlling my own environment helps me in some little ways. I hate that my gym went out of business–I really do–and both Paul and I have agreed there isn’t much point to joining another one (there’s one down on Magazine that’s a slightly longer walk than my old gym) until we know for a fact the possibility of shelter-in-place is no longer looming over our heads. I should go back to doing little things to keep myself physically active–stretching, push ups, abs–but on the mornings when I have to go to the office, it’s really all I can do to get up and get my shit together before I head down to the office.

I also didn’t read at all over the weekend. I fear that I am passively giving the impression that Cottonmouths is not a good read–it is–it’s just that it’s hard for me to focus when I am finished with work for the day…but I am going to try to read a chapter a day until it’s finished; that’s the goal for this week, and since I now have some other things that I also want to get to, am hopeful this will be the motivation I need.

And on that note, tis off to the shower and get ready to start the day. may your Monday be whatever you need it to be, Constant Reader.

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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Shambala

Thursday afternoon, home from work and the grocery store. It’s overcast outside–there was a monsoon earlier, but no flooding–and I am really glad I made it home before it starts pouring again. I really should be putting the groceries away, but it’s so hot and muggy outside I wanted to just sit for a minute before I get up. I also have laundry to do, and might as well get started on the slog of cleaning the kitchen/office/living room. Heavy heaving sigh. I also want to do some writing or editing this evening before I give up for the day and start dinner and relax.

Storms clouds have rolled in since I got up and put away the groceries and put the laundry into the dryer. It’s weird because I can visually tell it’s darker outside–if I turned off the kitchen lights it would ridiculously dark–but when I look up out the windows through the crepe myrtles next door,  all I see is blue sky and white clouds.

Ah, New Orleans weather and its many peculiar vagaries.

Shit, I just remembered there are clean dishes in the dishwasher. Be right back.

Okay, that’s one, and I have Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys playing through the stereo unit in the Lost Apartment (those harmonies!) As I look around at the kingdom of my office, I spy things that need to be put away, things that need to be handled, things that need to be put away. I’m also kind of avoiding my email inbox, because I also don’t want to deal with any of that, either.

I’m still thinking about Laura Lippman’s lovely essay that I read the other day, as I continue to struggle to get a grip and handle on everything I’ve managed to again fall behind on.

One of the more interesting–perhaps curious is a better word–things I’ve noticed over the course of my lifetime is the change in what the cultural definition of what is (or isn’t) sexy when it comes to men and masculinity. I can remember when I was a kid that bodybuilding was primarily seen as the province of queers; I’m not sure how or where I became aware of that, but I know the eschewing of weight lifting for men (and younger men) was not something that was a cultural norm; health clubs didn’t really start proliferating until, best as I can recall, the late 1970’s/early 1980’s. Even then, the idea wasn’t to get ripped or cut or to have a six pack, it was just to have a bigger overall physique.  I don’t remember how old I was when I began having a love-hate relationship with my body; I joined my first gym in 1981. Over the course of the next ten years I joined several others; I never lasted more than a few weeks. I wasn’t particularly motivated–I wanted to look better and feel better about myself, but I found the weight room horrifyingly intimidating and gyms not particularly welcoming. I am sure some of that had to do with the PTSD acquired as a tween and teen with gym class, athletics, and everything to do with those things. I tried several times, and it never took.

I always blamed those failures on my own laziness. Now, though, I am beginning to wonder about that more; if there was more to it, on a psychological or subconscious level. I know when I joined a gym in January of 1995, I was determined to accomplish change, not only in my body but in my life. I also joined a gay owned and operated gym; which was not only welcoming and friendly, but kind of nice. Everyone who worked there was friendly and available to answer questions and help. That made a huge difference. I liked my gym, I liked going there, and the changes I was seeing in my body–I was also on a very strict eating plan–were enough reward to keep me going. And I also noticed that the way I was treated in general was better–bartenders, servers, sales clerks, even the passengers at the airport–were friendlier and nicer to me the more my body shape shifted and changed. I was very dedicated to this self-improvement kick; I also have a tendency to be obsessive when I become interested in something. When I lost my job at the airline, I decided the next step in my career would be to work in health and fitness, trying to help people who were like me and pay it all forward.

I fell off the fitness wagon about ten years or so ago; primarily because I injured my back and also started working full time outside of my home. The adjustment to finding time to work out around a forty-hour work week, a brutal editing schedule, and an insane writing treadmill (which led to the publication of a ridiculous amount of novels and short stories over a highly productive few years) made finding time to workout more and more difficult. The injury didn’t help…and I would always try to come back too soon and aggravate the obviously-not-completely healed injury. I even hired a trainer to make me go to the gym–I’d keep appointments, even if I couldn’t be bothered to go to the gym at other times. A few years ago the tightening of my finances and the need to buy a new car forced me to let Wacky Russian go as an expense, which sucked…because I’ve never really been able to find a rhythm for working out again since then. I keep meaning to go…but then I am so tired, and I can’t keep up with my writing and my emails and my cleaning, and then…

Yes, excuses. I can always find them. Never fear.

I’m also going to be fifty-eight next year. I am not as concerned as I was when I was in my thirties whether other people think I’m hot–or as Laura said in her seminal essay, “fuckable”–and ironically, doing it for my health, to improve my sleep and my energy, doesn’t seem to be motivation enough to get me to go. I am not, after all, going to hang out in the Quarter all weekend long with very little clothing on during Southern Decadence, nor am I going to pick out a slutty Halloween costume, or go out dressed nearly naked as a masked professional wrestler again. But feeling better–and I always do after I work out, after I stretch, etc.–should be enough of a motivator to get me to go. And yet, somehow I will always find some kind of excuse for it (I intended to go during my Staycation a few weeks ago; then I left my headphones for my phone at the office and since I couldn’t listen to music–I can always find an excuse) and wind up not going.

Repeat after me, Gregalicious: three times a week is optimal, two times is better than one, once is better than none.

So, my plan is to give it another shot this weekend. I do miss the gym, you know. I miss watching other people work out and making up stories about them in my head. I miss the smell of the weight room, the clanking sound the weights make, the friendly people who work at my gym, and even the water I drink–I hate water, don’t drink nearly enough, and working out forces me to drink it.

And on that note, I am going to try to get some of this mess cleaned up and maybe even do some writing.

Have a lovely rest of your day.

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