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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If You Want Me to Stay

Well, here it is Thursday afternoon, I’ve got a load of laundry to fold and another in the dryer, the dishwasher is running and on my way home I made groceries. The past two days have been remarkably pleasant in New Orleans; low eighties and little to no humidity–so low that if there is any it isn’t noticeable, and anyone who’s been to New Orleans in July/August knows just how remarkable that actually is. I’ve not gotten very much writing done thus far this week–and I am debating whether to call it a night and just go relax in my easy chair, or try to get some writing done. I am in the midst of an enormous project that landed in my lap this week (or was it late last week? I don’t remember) and focusing on that has kind of knocked me out of writing mode.

Granted, it doesn’t take much to do this to me, but there you have it.

As much as I love writing, it’s amazing how little desire I usually have to do it. I always have to make myself do it, which is beyond bizarre.

Okay, I just spent some time doing chores, and am now listening to the Pet Shop Boys on Spotify. I’ve cleaned the kitchen, done some more laundry, straightened the rugs, and swept the living room. It really is disgraceful how slovenly I live; it’s at the point now where I am too ashamed to hire a cleaner. But in my own defense, eighteen foot ceilings make things incredibly difficult for cleaning purposes, especially when you have a ladder phobia and the floors aren’t level. I’ve always thought that the perfect metaphor for New Orleans; so many of us live here in a world that isn’t quite level. The ground is always shifting and sinking; houses always begin to lean and tilt as their foundations settle. There are very few streets or sidewalks in this city that are perfectly level; therefore it’s not so hard to understand that those of us who live here and no longer notice that things aren’t perfectly level are a little off-balance when we go somewhere else. The beautiful crepe myrtles that line the other side of the fence shower our sidewalk with beautiful , tiny pink and white blossoms…that turn to sludge when they get wet. They also attach themselves to your shoes and you track them inside, along with other assorted tree and bush and floral debris. I could sweep the sidewalk every morning and it would need to be swept again in two hours.

There’s also more dust here than anywhere I’ve ever lived before, and I’ve lived in desert climates. One would think the damp and rain would cleanse the air and remove all the dust and dirt, but it doesn’t. I can take my car to be cleaned, and by the next day there’s a thin layer of dust/dirt on my car. I’m not even sure where it comes from, to be honest. Maybe the crumbling of the houses and sidewalks and streets cough it up. Back when I worked at home I did the windows of my office every week, because the light was so much better and everything looked so much crisper and nicer with the glass cleaned. Now,  I don’t have the time, and I think that also might contribute to the general sense of dinginess. I need to take down all the pictures and dust them, the baseboards are in really poor shape, and of course, I should take the rugs in to be thoroughly cleansed.

I do enjoy cleaning though, and I do tend to think a lot about my writing when I’m cleaning. I have to write an essay/introduction to a new edition of a novel by an author who died of AIDS before the book was even published, and it is quite a good book; I loved his other book as well, and so I’ve been trying to think of a way to write an appropriate appreciation of the work he left behind; while also talking about the potential work we lost when he died so young. I knew there was a way to do it tastefully and respectfully, but every time I reached for it, it danced away out of reach inside my mind. While I was sweeping the living room, I realized what the theme of the book actually was, and that it would also make a perfect theme for my piece.

So, yay, thank you for that, dirty apartment.

I’ve also got my desk all cleaned and organized and ready for the weekend; I still need to file or find some places for things that I’m working on–I am really working on too much; I have certainly outgrown this little cubby I used as an office, and yes, I know, it’s better for the world and more convenient for me to go all digital and paperless….but I’m old and I’ve lost too much data over the years to ever completely be comfortable with a digital office. I’m excited; I want to write my essay, I am going to dig back into the WIP, and I also get to read Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay, which is such a great title; it reminds me of my favorite ever-theater poster for Romeo and Juliet; I think Tulane was doing it and the poster was just red and yellow flames on a stark black background, and across the top in red letters outline in yellow were the words A plague upon both your houses.

Isn’t that great? Someone should really write an essay exploring Romeo and Juliet as a teen noir; it’s probably the only take on the play that hasn’t been taken–and even as I type that, I’m thinking, don’t be so sure.

And now it’s almost time for The Real Housewives of New York, after which I’ll probably write for a little while.

Have a lovely evening, Constant Reader!

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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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You Should Be Dancing

Well, Constant Reader, it’s Wednesday and we’ve officially made it through the first half of the week. Actually, for me it’s the first three quarters because I have Good Friday off, bitches.

Thank you AGAIN, Catholic New Orleans.

It’s payday, so I am going to relish having money in my bank account for a few moments before I start paying the bills and the money disappears. Yesterday I was tired; I had dinner with my friend Stuart (in from out of town) and his friend Jamie Monday night after work and even had a craft beer–which of course made me incredibly sleepy. Paul had gone over to a friend’s on Sunday so I’d watched Game of Thrones alone, so Monday night I watched it again with Paul, so I was already sleepy from the beer and tired, and wound up staying up later than I’d intended watching Game of Thrones. Sigh. But last night I slept really well, and even woke up relatively early this morning, which was quite lovely.

My desk is a bit of a mess and I have dishes in the sink (and I suspect dishes in the dishwasher that need to be put away) and some laundry in process…so I probably should get going on all of that before I get ready for work. Heavy heaving sigh. Today is the last of my long days at work this week–tomorrow is a half-day, Friday is a HOLIDAY HUZZAH HUZZAH HUZZAH!–so I should just buckle up and deal.

We did watch Veep last night, which was, as always, hilarious.

And while I whine about going to work all the time, I have to point out that I actually love my day job. It’s the perfect thing for me; I just wish I didn’t have to do it forty hours a week. But if I have to work forty hours a week in an office, this is the best possible option for me; I love what I do. (I just feel like I need to point that out on occasion!)

So, today I am hoping to get some writing done, read some more of Alison Gaylin’s terrific Never Look Back, and get home tonight in time to watch The Real Housewives of New York.

Yes, that’s me, living large.

Sorry to be so dull–and now it’s off to the spice mines.

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