Free Ride

So, where were we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It Never Rains in Southern California

Less than a week until Royal Street Reveillon is officially out in the world!

And so far, no current labor pains!

But, in fairness, it took me a good long while to write this book. My memory is so bad, and I’m so constantly and regularly busy, that I don’t even remember when I actually wrote it and turned it in to my publisher. I think it was earlier this year? I don’t remember–and that’s kind of sad. This is but one of the many reasons I don’t think I’ll ever write a memoir; my memory lies to me all the time and I never know what I remember correctly, let alone times and timelines and so forth. For example, when I was writing my essay “I Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet” for Love, Bourbon Street, I went into it thinking I spent weeks in Kentucky at my parents’ after the evacuation, when it was actually less than three before I returned to Louisiana. That was a shock, believe me…but it’s true: we evacuated on August 28th, and I returned to New Orleans for good in early October after several weeks on the North Shore at my friend Michael’s. Stress and age and everything else combines to make things seem different in memory; and I’ve also noted, many times, how often people look back through a rosy glow of nostalgia. (I’ve always thought people view the past nostalgically because they aren’t happy, for one reason or another, in the present; they think oh, everything was so much simpler and easier back then. It’s usually not that true.)

So, Gregalicious, why did you decide to write a murder mystery built around a reality television show filming in New Orleans?

I didn’t watch An American Family, the first true reality show, back in the 1970’s on PBS, as the Loud family allowed their lives to be filmed for the entertainment of the masses. The show, which was the baseline for everything that came later, was quite controversial–I remember reading in the newspaper that one of the sons came out as gay on camera, which was kind of a big deal in the 1970’s–but in the 1990’s, I was a big fan of MTV’s sociological experiment, The Real World, and it’s sister-show that came later, Road Rules. But as the shows went on, they went from being a sociological experiment (hey, let’s take a group of seven kids from completely different backgrounds, make them live together and work on a project, and see what, if anything, they learn from each other) to being exploitative (hey, if all of them are young and beautiful and damaged, and we encourage them to drink and hook up, drama will ensue!), which was when I lost interest in watching them anymore. I also watched the game show version–The Challenges–primarily because the young men were always hot, often shirtless, and sometimes even less clad than that, plus watching the competitions was interesting. But it, too, eventually paled in interest to me–they were so repetitive, and the producers never intervened when violence broke out, and that was more often than not–and so I stopped watching.

The Real Housewives was different for me. Back in the day, we used to watch Bravo a lot–Inside the Actor’s Studio, Project Runway, reruns of Law and Order and The West Wing–and when they started promoting a new show they were doing called The Real Housewives of Orange County, I sniffed disdainfully at it. At that time, one of the hottest shows on network television was Desperate Housewives, and this seemed to be a rip-off, an attempt to cash in on the success of another network’s show by copying the title and so forth: “oh, if you like that show, here’s the real women of the area who are housewives, and what there lives are like.” The previews I’d see didn’t really encourage me to watch–the women seemed, for the most part, like horrible people, particularly Vicki Gunvalson–but as the show spawned spin-off shows in other cities and regions, I became more than passingly acquainted with them. They usually ran marathons on Sundays, and when it’s not football season Sunday television was pretty much a wasteland. I’d flip on the marathon for background noise while I read a book and Paul napped on the couch–but I also began to absorb the shows through a kind of osmosis. I knew who the women were and what their lives were like–but still didn’t watch regularly until around 2010, or 2011 or so.

And once I started giving Real Housewives of New York and Beverly Hills my full attention–yeah, I was hooked.

Paul would even watch with me from time to time…and we played a game: if they did a New Orleans version, who would they cast? It was fun, because we also were relatively certain none of the women we thought would kill it on such a show would ever remotely consider doing such a show (Southern Charm New Orleans proved us right), and then I began to think…but such a show here would be absolutely the perfect background for a murder mystery, because of the way everyone here is so connected to everyone else and there would be backstory and history galore.

I always saw it as a Scotty book, but when I turned it into the Paige novella, that changed things. I still wanted to do a Scotty book about a reality show, and I started making notes for one called Reality Show Rhumba. And, if you’re wondering, that’s where the character of Frank’s nephew Taylor Wheeler came from; when I added him to the regular cast of characters for the Scotty series, my intent was to have him eventually be case in a Real World-type show here in New Orleans, and anchor a murder mystery. But then…the Paige novella series went nowhere, and I hated losing such a great idea..so as I went into Garden District Gothic I introduced Serena Castlemaine to the boys, thus planting the seeds for Royal Street Reveillon, knowing I could keep some parts of the story but would have to change others–which was cool, because I always felt that the original novella was kind of rushed, and I didn’t have either the time–or the space (since novellas are by nature shorter)–to make the story what I wanted it to be.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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The Cover of the Rolling Stone

Wednesday! Huzzah!

Another lovely night of sleep last night; I was really tired. The two back-to-back twelve hours days have been wearing me out lately; combination of stress with all I  need to get done no doubt, and of course the heat of a New Orleans summer. The kitchen this morning is a bit of a mess, and I hope I have time this morning to get it straightened up a bit. The two short days begin tomorrow–huzzah!–and I need to get so much done it’s not even funny.

I finished Chapter Twenty last night; another 1400 words or so. I am hopeful to get back to my old 3000 per day total soon, but even if they are coming slower than I would like, I am getting them done–slowly but surely. I started to say that the words are terrible but I’ll take them; and then I remembered–Gregalicious, that is self-deprecation and haven’t we decided we aren’t doing that anymore? So, while Chapter Twenty is certainly not ready for the printers, it does what it’s supposed to do–move the story along, show us more about our main character and his burgeoning relationship with his love interest–and therefore, it needs some work but I am quite pleased with how it’s all turned out thus far. The next chapter is going to be trickier still than twenty was; there’s still a lot I need to have happen and revelations to come. But the end zone is in sight; if this were a college football game I’d be in the red zone, which is joyous.

Seriously, there were times when I thought I was never going to finish this draft.

As always, I am behind on everything; I am beginning to think that this is something I do to myself subconsciously to create the pressure which some part of my being thinks is necessary to get things done. I used to think I had a tendency to be self-defeating; that I was so afraid of succeeding that I deliberately set up road blocks to keep myself in a constant state of failure. I no longer think that I am self-defeating, although I do think I have a fear of success somewhat; why else do I keep doing things that apparently, according to all conventional wisdom, are the exact opposite of the things I am traditionally supposed to do in order to succeed?

We watched another episode of The Boys last night, and I have to say we are really enjoying this show. It’s getting progressively darker, and there’s also some scathing political commentary on the modern world as well. The parallels between the show’s United States and our current country’s recent history that are undeniably there, and frankly, we don’t come out of it looking too good–nor should we.

I’m hoping to read more of Steph Cha’s book today, and maybe even later when I get home tonight, if I don’t write for a while when I get off work this evening. There’s a new episode of Animal Kingdom available as well.

And football season is drawing ever closer. Tomorrow is August 1!

Where has this year gone already?

My toothache has almost completely gone away now; the tooth is still a little tender so I am aware of it, but as far soul-destroying pain, that’s no longer an issue. Huzzah indeed! I do need to go see the dentist though. Heavy sigh. I really loathe going to the dentist, but I suppose that’s fairly obvious given my teeth situation.

I am excited for football season; for the cooler weather and for both LSU and the Saints this year. LSU recently unveiled their new football training center, which is absolutely insane, and not without controversy; the battle between athletics and education is never-ending. Frankly, I’m deeply sympathetic to those on the side of education; LSU’s academic budget has been cut to the bone, majors have been decimated, and the campus library is in terrible condition. A brand new, $28 million state-of-the-art training facility for the football team at this time is kind of slap in the face to those worried about the state of higher education in this state. But the money wasn’t taken away from academics; the $28 million raised for this wasn’t taken away from academics but raised from donors who probably wouldn’t have given the money–or as much money–for a new library or to save a major that was being cut. LSU football, whether people like it or not, is big business now; and in fact some of the profits from the football team have been fed back into the University general funds since about 2012. Now, arguing about whether college football has become too big, too big time, and too much like professional sports–yep, college football has seen some enormous changes since I was a kid; it’s certainly not the same sport in 2019 that is was back in 1979, and those questions are valid and perhaps a debate we should be having.

But college football in 1979 was also vastly different from college football in 1959, or even 1969–when it was populated by mostly white players. I also agree that LSU desperately needs more money than the legislature is providing for it; maybe less tax cuts for the rich and for oil companies in Louisiana? Investments, not just in LSU but also in the University of Louisiana system, will pay off in the future for the state, and I’ve never understood why education has never been a priority for any politicians in Louisiana since Huey Long.

Of course, the argument could also be made that the political class isn’t interested in an educated populace; the more critically a person can think, the less likely they are to be swayed by emotional appeals based in nothing when they vote. One could also make this argument a national issue instead of just a state one; the decline of funding for education across the board on a national level over the last few decades is frankly scandalous.

But college sports didn’t create the education crisis, but it’s an incredibly easy target.

Or maybe as a lifelong college football fan (I only care about the Saints in the NFL) I am too hopelessly biased to opine on the matter.

But I will, nevertheless, continue to look forward to football season.

I also watched the third part of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills reunion, which wasn’t particularly interesting. The reunions aren’t my favorites, although if you don’t want to waste your time watching an entire season, you can pretty much catch up on everything by watching the reunions (I used to do this with the ones I didn’t watch much, like New Jersey and Orange County.) But once you’ve watched an entire season, the reunions aren’t as “explosive” as the promos promise.

And now back to the spice mines.

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We’re An American Band

Wednesday, Hump Day, and the slow slide into another weekend. It’s also pay day, which is really Pay the Bills Day–never a pleasant task, no matter how much I try to make it into one (“Oh, isn’t it satisfying to get this done?” Um, no, not really.)

I woke up after a lovely night’s sleep to a horrendous thunderstorm; we are now in a tornado warning, which I think means one has been spotted; I’m not really sure where precisely–I can never remember the difference between watch and warning. 

Okay, I looked it up and I was right: warning means one has been spotted. Looking at the radar map, it’s not in our area, but it’s rather close to where the office is.

Which should make for an exciting day at work, no?

I had planned on running some errands this morning before heading in, and now I am not so sure I want to do that, understandably, unless this all lightens up before it’s time to go in. We’re also in a flash flood warning (through Sunday on one, JULY 23RD on another, because the river is already high and this tropical thing out in the gulf could send a storm surge up the river. (Aside: it is raining so hard I keep thinking the sink is running and start to get up to go turn off the spigot before catching myself.)

I haven’t written much this week so far; I’ve primarily focused on rereading things I’ve already read and editing them and making notes for revisions as I go. I know I should reread everything I’ve written for the WIP–in order to possibly trigger where to go with the next chapter, which I’ve been stuck on for quite some time–but I am feeling particularly writing-lazy, and I also know I am going to regret that should we have to evacuate in the face of the coming storm this weekend. But an evacuation would sort of change everything anyway–all bets are off!–so there’s also that.

I watched the season finale of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills last night when I got home from work–I wasn’t so tired Monday night after work, but for some reason last night I was exhausted–and it entertained. It’s very strange, and more than a little unsettling, to see it without Lisa Vanderpump; if any of the original cast still left was going to go, my money and preferences would have been Kyle Richards, whom I have never been able to stand or bear for very long. This season was really not very good, and there were more than a few times when I considered, seriously, stopping watching. The only thing I liked about this season was the addition of Denise Richards.  I didn’t have high hopes for her as an addition–Paul and I actually tried to watch her reality show years ago, Denise Richards: It’s Complicated, and didn’t last beyond the premiere episode. (We usually will give any new show we try a couple of episodes, unless it is so beyond redemption in the premiere we assume it isn’t going to get better; alas, Denise’s original foray into reality television fell into that category–and we wanted to like it. We loved her in Drop Dead Gorgeous, which is a vastly under-appreciated comic classic.) Paul came home in the middle of the episode–he doesn’t really watch my reality shows with me, he has more discerning tastes–and as I explained things to him, I stopped at one point and said, “And it is truly frightening that I know this much, not only about the show, but about their lives outside of the show.

But as Laura Lippman says, one should never apologize for anything in this world that one enjoys, as there are so many things and experiences we don’t enjoy–we should definitely allow ourselves to enjoy things that might earn us scorn from others. She’s right, of course; I don’t give a shit if someone looks down on me for enjoying reality television; hell, I’ve written a book around reality television (Royal Street Reveillon, coming this September, from Bold Strokes Books! Preorder now!). I’ve watched reality television going back to the very first season of The Real World on MTV, which, while not the first reality show, was certainly the precursor to the reality show boom of this century.

It’s also payday, and I have to pay the bills this morning. My favorite chore, but it must be done.

Have a lovely Wednesday, Constant Reader. I look forward to giving you another Gregalicious update tomorrow.

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The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia

That baton was ON FIRE!

I do miss (original cast) Designing Women from time to time.

Today is National HIV Testing Day, so I will be working in the Carevan, parking in the Walgreens a block or so from my house, for nine hours today. We were also incredibly busy at the office yesterday, which was exhausting, but it was also nice; we’ve not been busy like that during testing hours at the new building since we moved into it.

I also managed, like a doofus, to forget to save the word document I was working on yesterday morning before I left for the office, and apparently the power here blinked on and off–long enough to make all the digital clocks blink, but not long enough to take them all back to 12:00. So, yes, the thirteen hundred words I’d done before work yesterday were gone when I got home (for some reason Word also didn’t save them as a temporary file I could recover, thanks Microsoft!) but I wasn’t irritated or overly annoyed; the words were bad bad bad, and whenever this happens and I have to reconstruct stuff from memory, it always winds up being better than what I did originally and lost.

And the stuff I lost, let’s be honest, was absolute garbage.

I was so tired when i got home last night I didn’t have the energy to reconstruct anything or do anything; the dishes remain in the dishwasher, loads of clothes remained in the washer and dryer, the mess in the kitchen remains a mess. Instead, I repaired to my easy chair, allowed Scooter to nap in my lap, and turned on the television. There really wasn’t anything I wanted to watch, so, with some trepidation, I went to Hulu and cued up the second season of Southern Charm New Orleans.

I have already confessed to my reality television addiction; it’s primarily Real Housewives franchises. I did watch the original, Charleston version of Southern Charm (always wondering how they actually managed to get actual members of the city’s upper class, with some actually old society money people, to agree to being on the show; but it got too dark for me with bad parenting, custody struggles, and drug addiction–I guess the reality was a little too real and noir for me), and it was with no little trepidation that I began watching the first episode of the first season when it originally aired a while back–but I either didn’t make it all the way through the first episode, or made it to the second before giving up.

I just absolutely loathed it.

But a friend who lives her part-time (we both tried the original season and gave up in despair and disgust) alerted me that she’d gotten sucked into season two; and I should give it another try. So, last night, to exhausted to do anything other than sit in my easy chair with a purring cat in my lap, and with Paul not home and nothing else to watch, I started.

After I got past the initial laughter at the fact the show is called Southern Charm New Orleans and the majority of the cast actually doesn’t live in New Orleans (Mandeville and Covington are on the north shore, in St. Tammany Parish, and twenty six miles across the lake from Metairie–also not New Orleans), and I kind of thought it was kind of funny the way the show simply flashed the names of their towns across the bottom of the screen when showing their homes, as though they were New Orleans neighborhoods, like Gentilly and Lakeview, but the more I watched, the more I began to get sucked into it. By the end of the second episode I had so many questions, had already taken sides in some of the oh-so-heavily-handed-manufactured-drama on the show, and had committed to watching the next two available episodes when I can.

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, but I think I was absolutely, positively pulled in when Bravo and the producers did this amazing, amazing thing–part of the story is that a married couple from season one–Jeff, the retired Saints player, and his horrible wife, Reagan, gave up on their failed marriage and got divorced between seasons, while she has moved on to an old-flame from her college days, Reece, whom we do not see or hear about other than “Reagan’s new boyfriend” in the first episode, other than a scene of him showering from behind—and yes, we see his wet, soapy, not particularly attractive bare ass (which was when Paul, who’d come home about halfway through the episode and sat down and watched with me, bailed). In the second episode we see this again, as well as Jeff fully unclothed from behind also in the shower (for comparison sake?), and I was all, well, okay then, if you’re not going to show the two incredibly hot men of color bare-assed, why must we suffer through these white boy butts?

The big drama was, of course, her introducing the new boyfriend to her ex-husband and her friends, which she did at a party for launching her new “jewelry store” at One Canal Place; the hilarious thing was how the meeting was shown on television–the two men walk away from the party to talk (which makes everyone else freak out, of course, wondering why “they had to walk away and talk”, honestly, come up with better unscripted scripts, producers), and what was absolutely hilarious (other than hot artist Jon Moody describing the new boyfriend as “cool ranch Doritos,” which is instantly iconic Bravo shade) was that Reece, the new boyfriend, is, as so many New Orleanians, a huge Saints fan, so of course he was excited to meet Jeff, the ex-husband. What was even more hilarious was they kept cutting from the two of them having a remarkably adult conversation to first a talking head from Jeff, clearly unimpressed and quoting things Reagan had said to him about Reece, then cutting to Reece in a talking head saying what Reagan had told Jeff. 

It was, frankly, one of Bravo’s finest reality show scenes, ever.

JEFF: “Well, Reagan told me he was a huge Saints fan, so she said he’s going to have a man crush on me.”

REECE: “I’m a huge Saints fan, so I’m really excited to meet him. I already have kind of a man crush on him.”

JEFF: “And I was on the Super Bowl team. He got a Saints tattoo on his side after we won the Super Bowl, so he probably wants to date ME.”

RRECE: “He was on the Super Bowl team! Hell, I’d like to date HIM.”

And so forth.

It was amazing.

And just like that, I was sucked into Southern Charm New Orleans, damn you to hell, Bravo. I was ready to bail on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and even starting to tire somewhat of The Real Housewives of New York (still the gold standard, but still not as good as it was), and so I was almost free of my Bravo addiction….and then, of all things, Southern Charm New Orleans pulled me back in.

Sigh. And now back to the spice mines.

Know your status, peeps.

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