Stomp!

Friday, Friday, got to get down it’s Friday!

Another lovely night’s sleep was enjoyed by one Gregalicious, and my mood is pleasant as a result. It really is insane how much better I feel when I’m getting regular sleep that is good; hopefully today I’ll be able to get a lot accomplished–despite the horror of knowing that we are in an excessive heat warning, with the heat index potentially climbing up to 115 this afternoon and staying there for most of the rest of the day. Yikes! I do have to go to the gym today–which would be on foot, which will send me out into the madness of the heat–but I shall survive. New Orleans and heat kind of go hand-in-hand, after all, and while this summer seems a bit more extreme than past ones, at least we have a working a/c system in the house now (which has also made a remarkably marked difference from the last two summers around here).

I need to make a to-do list, and I have a shit ton of emails to answer. Heavy sigh. It never ends.

I also need to type up my notes from my meeting with my editor yesterday, so that I am prepared to fix what’s wrong with #shedeservedit, so I can get it finished by the end of the month, which is when it’s due. I also have to finish going over the edits for Bury Me in Shadows, so I can get that finished as well–just to ensure that everything with it that she did (this is the line/copy edit) I’m okay with; fortunately I trust her but there are a few things she wants me to check. And while I do hate putting Chlorine aside for a little while, if I can get the Bury Me in Shadows things finished on time I can go back to working on it for Sunday. I don’t know, we’ll see how the weekend goes, I suppose.

Gregalicious plans, and the gods laugh.

But this morning my coffee is wonderful, and I am basking in the glow of feeling good about a lot of things. I’ve not felt good for a while; my memory is such a joke these days that it seems as though I haven’t felt good in a while about myself and my life and my writing in general for a long time. Not sure how true that is, or if it’s really just another side effect of a nasty pandemic (on-going!); but I definitely am hopeful this lasts for a while.

I watched the Olympics yet again last night; it was terrific to see Sunisa Lee become the first Asian-American all around gymnastics gold medalist, and I think possibly the first Olympic medalist of any kind of Hmong descent. The Hmongs are an ethnic minority of southeastern Asia, spread out over Vietnam, Cambodia and China; and they were recruited and used by the American military during the Vietnam War to fight the illegal war in Laos–and then of course, once we pulled out, we pretty much left them out to dry (see also: Iraqi Kurds after the First Gulf War. Sensing a theme?), and they were finally welcomed and recognized as political refugees and allowed entry to the US (big of us, right?) in the early 1980’s. I first became aware of the Hmong people and culture when I lived in Fresno–a large number of them settled there–and my parents also lived next door to a Hmong family in Houston (my mother became rather fond of the family matriarch over their years of being neighbors). I’m not sure if there are any Hmong-Americans in New Orleans; I do know there’s a large Vietnamese community here in the East (that French colonial tie between New Orleans and Vietnam–banh mih is like the Vietnamese version of a po’boy, although I think banh mih might have, probably, existed first).

Then again, there are a lot of other cultures in New Orleans that rarely get written about–Greeks, Vietnamese, the IsleƱos from the Canary Islands, the Haitians and Dominicans–which is yet another indication of how I could be writing about the city for the rest of my life and never scratch the surface of all the different cultures and ethnicities and influences here.

I also watched 54: The Director’s Cut again–I rented it a few years ago on Prime, I think–and while I remembered it as a much better movie than the theatrical release (which was really sappy and terrible and borderline homophobic), I’d forgotten how completely queer the director’s cut is. I was actually thinking last night about writing an essay about Studio 54-despite never having been there–but knowing that it existed was one of the first times in my young gay life that I became aware that it was possible for people like me to live differently than what I had been raised to believe was my life path and what was the cultural norm (“Looking for Studio 54” is the title I jotted down in my journal), and watching this (much better) version of the film while I made my condom packs yesterday was interesting (I also thought about doing a compare/contrast between the two different versions of the film, “A Tale of Two Studio 54’s”, but I can probably write that into my “Looking for Studio 54” essay); I think the first time I watched the director’s cut I was still completely in the headspace that Shane, the main character (a dazzlingly beautiful Ryan Philippe in all of his youthful glory) was straight but willing to do what he needed to do to get ahead; on second watch, it’s even more clear that Shane’s sexuality is incredibly fluid and while it was possible that he might be gay and just coming to realize it, it’s also not impossible that he could be bisexual. This film is a lot more sexual than the theatrical release, and has no problem exploring the gory details of the hedonism–the drugs and sex–that were the hallmark of that period and of the club itself. There are also some parallels between this movie and Saturday Night Fever–the good looking kid going nowhere who loses himself in the joys of a disco, the only really joy in his life–and there’s also the sense of Shane, rejected by his father for being a disappointment (how many gay men can relate to that experience?) and finding and making his own family; while Shane’s sexuality definitely is fluid in the film, and it never really answers the questions it raises, so much of Shane’s journey parallels the journey of so many young men in the 1970’s drawn to the glittering lights of New York away from their drab lives wherever they were originally from…yes, there’s definitely an essay there, and one that requires watching the film again and probably the theatrical release as well.

And on that note–hello spice mines! Good to see you–and Constant Reader, I will see you tomorrow.

Long Live

Good morning, Sunday!

I did the windows yesterday, and it is literally amazing how I can forget between window cleanings what a difference it makes. It had been so long since I’d done it I need to do them again–it’s never easy getting all that caked on dirt and dust and debris off the glass, even when you do it weekly, as I used to do–but it’s a start.

I woke up early and feeling rested yesterday, which was absolutely lovely–and it was an absolutely lovely day in New Orleans, if a bit warm for mid-November. Did I get as much done as I needed and/or wanted to? Of course not. I did some other cleaning and straightening around the Lost Apartment; made some notes on some projects I am working on, and reread “The Snow Globe” to get a better idea of what I am dealing with on the revision, which I am going to get done today before I go to the gym. I’m also making the week’s to-do list, doing some other chores around the house, and feeling a lot better about things. Yes, I am behind on everything, but a little bit of focus and a little bit of desperation never hurt me, or anything I’ve worked on.

Rereading the story was, actually, something i’d been dreading doing; I always hate to reread something I’ve written, as I always tend to be highly critical and negative, and this story was no exception. I do love the story a lot–it was written to be submitted to a war on Christmas anthology and wasn’t accepted (the anthology never happened, either; long ugly story)–but it definitely needs some work. I originally came up with the story for a Halloween anthology, to be completely honest; there was a call for submissions, I think maybe from the Horror Writers’ Association, for stories with a Halloween theme. I distinctly remember reading the call and then an image popped into my head–me standing on the balcony at the Pub, looking down on Bourbon Street and the front doors of Oz, as a man in a devil costume came out; and he was hot as fuck; perfect body, body paint to make his skin red, and a skimpy red bikini, and thought Satan has a great six-pack, which I then made the opening line of the story. I believe at the time the story was called “All Hallow’s Eve” or something along those lines; but the story never made it past the opening paragraph. When the chance to write a story for the Christmas anthology came along, I remembered that opening and I remembered the joke I made on the Facebook post and thread about Christmas horror stories–I wanted to write about a Satanic snow globe–and immediately saw how to turn my unfinished Halloween story into a Christmas horror story called “The Snow Globe” merely by changing a single letter in the opening line: Santa had a great six-pack.

Voila! And the story began to flow. As I said, it was rejected from the anthology I wrote it for–and in the notes I got from the editors, which was lovely (one rarely gets notes on a rejected story) they basically told me I should have made it more than it was–which I had also thought about doing, but was afraid to–and so naturally, with that confirmation that the initial instincts I’d ignored from lack of confidence were, in fact, correct, I went back to the drawing board and revised it. And clearly, it needed one more revision. I have editorial notes on this story already, which I completely agree with, and I don’t know why–other than utter and sheer laziness–that I have not gone ahead and worked on this story to get it finished and out of the way. That is my goal for this morning–get the damne thing finished and be done with it–and then I can move back on to the book that has been stalled for weeks now.

Last night we watched a few more episodes of Mr. Mercedes, which finally introduced the character of Holly Gibney, who quickly became one of my favorite King characters–which was why I was so delighted she showed up in The Outsider–and so far the character is being played as she was written in the book, which is quite lovely. I think the show has padded/built up some things that I don’t remember from the book–but since I don’t remember them from the book, I am not entirely sure there were changes made. I just know I am deeply enjoying the show–it’s really a shame it hasn’t gotten as much success as it should have. (Maybe it did, I don’t know; but I rarely, if ever, heard anything about the show and there are three seasons…so there wasn’t a lot of social media buzz about it.)

The Saints play this afternoon–I think the game starts around three-ish, if I am not mistaken–and then of course there will be a new episode of The Undoing tonight. That should give me more than enough time to get this story finished, some chores done, and a trip to the gym for a workout. This is my fourth week since we rejoined the gym, and I am eminently proud that I have gone three days a week ever since. I can’t get over how much better I feel physically–the stretching really helps, too–and that correlates with how much better I’ve been sleeping. Who knew that exhaustion would help one sleep? (Sarcasm, don’t @ me)

I also read a few more chapters of The Hot Rock yesterday, which I am enjoying. Westlake’s style in this book is very reminiscent of Rob Byrnes’ brilliant caper novels (Straight Lies, Holy Rollers, Strange Bedfellows)–although since Westlake is the influence here, I should probably say I can see his influence on that unappreciated trilogy; it still kind of amazing to me that I’ve not read more Westlake (or Lawrence Block, for that matter), which is something I am going to need to rectify. (I’ve also never read Ed McBain, but I read some of his Evan Hunter novels.)

As I have often said, my education in crime fiction is a little lacking when it comes to the classics; I’ve not read all of Ross MacDonald or Raymond Chandler, for example, and I’ve also never read a Dick Francis novel either, for that matter. I think I’ve read a Nero Wolfe or two, but not many–although I have thought about using the trope of that series for a book of my own–the brilliant investigative mind who never leaves his/her house so needs a legman, from whose point of view the story is told–and there are any number of other classic crime fiction writers I’ve not cracked a spine on. But with new books I want to read being released all the time and being unable to even keep up with the canon of current writers whose work I love–not to mention all the new-to-me writers I keep discovering–there’s just simply no way I can ever read everything I want to read.

I’ve been doing some more research on Chlorine, recently reading Confidential Confidential, about the scandal rag of the 1950’s, and Montgomery Clift Queer Star, an academic treatise of multiple essays about reading Clift performances and films as queer, which was very interesting. Reading these two books also reminded me of something else that was going on in the time period which I wish to cover–red-baiting and the House Un-American Committee hearings; another period of America not living up to her ideals. It’s probably hard to explain to people who didn’t grow up, or were old enough, to remember the existential threat of the Soviet Union that had Americans seeing Communist spies and Communist infiltration everywhere; without an understanding of the highly paranoid state created by politicians and news outlets, neither the Korean nor Vietnam Wars would have most likely happened. That fear of Communism was also used by conservatives to gin up racial hatred as well as systemic discrimination against people of color and queer people–the queers were considered a national security threat because if you were queer and worked for the government in any capacity, you were thus opened up to blackmail by Communist agents. This was an actual thing, and I all too often see that key element left out of writings about the time, both fiction and non-fiction.

It would thus be wrong to leave Red-baiting out of Chlorine, which will mean more research. Heavy heaving sigh.

And on that note, the dryer just clicked off, so I should fold the clothes and get ready to get back to to work on the story. Have a lovely Sunday, Constant Reader.

Later Tonight

So here we are, on Memorial Day Monday, the final day of the three day holiday weekend, and I’m wondering–without checking social media (I do not intend to go on social media at all today)–how many people are wishing others have a Happy Memorial Day? Memorial Day isn’t a happy day–even though the majority of people don’t have to work today–it’s supposed to be a day of quiet reflection in honor (or memory) of those who have died serving the country in the military. It’s a day when you should visit the graves of the military dead and clean them, bring flowers, and reflect on their service. While I have no one in my family, on either side, who was lost to a battlefield, it’s still a somber day, and wishing others well or to have a happy day is in extremely poor taste.

But then, Americans generally have a tendency to go through their lives blithely, completely unaware of their own history and the meanings behind national symbology, holidays, memoriams, etc.

Yesterday was a blissful day. I quite happily finished reading The Red Carnelian, and then reread a kid’s mystery I remembered fondly, The Secret of Skeleton Island, book one of the Ken Holt series–one of my childhood favorites, and was very pleased to see that it still held up. I wrote for a little while, did some cleaning and organizing (not nearly enough of either, quite frankly), and then we finished watching Outer Banks, which is really quite something. It’s kind of a hodgepodge of story, really; at first, it didn’t seem like it was sure what it wanted to be, but once it decided to kick it up a gear after a few dull episodes of set-up, it really took off. A lost treasure, betrayals and murder, class struggles, the heartbreak of teen romance–it was a non-stop thrill ride, culminating in our hero, John B., and his star-crossed lover, Sarah, taking off to sea while being hunted by the cops and driving their boat directly into the path of a tropical storm. Cheesy, completely ridiculous, and over-the-top, Outer Banks turned to be much more fun than I would have ever guessed, particularly given the first few episodes, which were just tedious. We then moved on to another Netflix series, a joint British/Spanish production of a crime thriller called White Lines, set on Ibiza and focusing on the discovery of the body of Axel Collins, missing for over twenty years–and his younger sister’s determination to get to the bottom of who killed her brother. It’s trash, but ever so entertaining.

I also spent some time with Harlan Ellison’s collection of television columns from the Los Angeles Free Press from the late 1960’s, The Glass Teat. Harlan Ellison was a writing hero of mine, yet at the same time he was one of those people I never wanted to meet. He wrote one of my favorite short stories of all time (“Paladin of the Lost Hour”) and is probably my favorite short story writer of all time; he also wrote the best episode of the original Star Trek series, “The City on the Edge of Tomorrow”; and also wrote the original story that became the film A Boy and His Dog, which was a bit of a cult classic in the 1970’s and 1980’s. All of his stories are really exceptional, and he was very opinionated–if he thought you were a garbage writer and you wrote garbage, he would let you know–but his television writings, while undoubtedly accurate, are really dated. It also got me thinking about the time period, and the struggles that were going on in the country–the Vietnam War, the rise of feminism, the Civil Rights battle–and how much of that period is not only not remembered today, but the specific language of the time has been forgotten: people using words like groovy and squares and the establishment, etc.; I also remember how false those words seemed when filtered through the lens of television producers and writers trying to seem hip and modern and cool….which, naturally, killed the popular usage of the words; after all, after you’ve heard Greg Brady enthuse about something being “groovy” on The Brady Bunch, it’s kind of hard to use the word in any other way than ironic from that point on. But a lot of what he was complaining about, what he was eviscerating, is still true today–that the television networks are all too terrified to put something that actually mirrors people’s realities on; that the whole point of television is to sell products to consumers; and as such, the commercial concerns inevitably will outweigh the artistry and truth of the show.

I’d love to know what he thought of All in the Family, in all honesty.

Today I want to get to some serious work on the multiple projects lying around; I also have two short stories queued up on the Kindle to read–“Rain” by Somerset Maugham, and Cornell Woolrich’s “It Had to Be Murder,” which was adapted into Hitchcock’s film Rear Window. I’ve been aware of Woolrich for quite some time now, but I have yet to read his work. He is considered a noir master, not perhaps as well known today as he should be, considering how many of his stories and novels became famous films, and he was also gay in a time period where being gay was exceptionally difficult–so naturally, I have a growing fascination for him. I started reading his The Night Has a Thousand Eyes a few years ago, but had to put it aside to read something else (prep work for a panel I was moderating) and somehow never got back to it….maybe instead of proceeding with another book in the Reread Project–I’ve yet to select one–I can go back and finish reading that? I looked at the opening of “It Had to Be Murder” last night as I queued it up and was most pleased with how it opened…so am looking forward to reading the story today.

And on that note, it’s time for me to get back to the spice mines.