My morning started in a funk, waking up at 4am to the sound of rain on the window. I got up in the dark, grabbed my robe, cat, and iPhone, then went downstairs to put the coffee on early and settle on the couch to watch news. Once I was confident North Korea hadn't nuked the west coast overnight, I flipped through On-Demand looking for something lighter to watch ... Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory, or even this season's laughable American Horror Story. As I was caught up on all my favorites, I ended up scrolling the HBO listings. I noticed that the film adaptation of The Shack was now available, and like I did with Twilight a few years back I thought, "What the hell? The book was a bestseller, so how bad could the movie be?" Also like Twilight, I had my answer quickly. I sipped hot coffee and checked my Recon messages as I sat in the dark, silhouetted against TV's unfolding drama. Working through grief I learned, is just like kneading dough ... and once the bread is made, you get to open your mouth and eat it. Shit-pie, hot bread, it's all the same big steaming mouthful ... only in the case of Papi, that mouthful was prepared in a kitchen that looked a lot like Martha Stewart's TV show.
To be fair I have to say that I'm not bashing Christian fiction; I've read many titles myself, including the first eight Left Behind books, The Celestine Prophecy, and a good chunk of The Harbinger. I particularly enjoyed Joel Rosenberg's stories (fast-paced religious thrillers that rival Preston/Child novels), and for as large as Christian readership is, I'm surprised most bookstores don't have bigger sections. (Some of the stuff is pretty good, and deserves the same promotional attention as the If-You-Liked-Fifty-Shades books.) I'll admit I never read The Shack myself, but I'm familiar with the story of "how" the book came to be published. Like EL James, William James is literally a rags-to-riches story, a small author with a small book that ended up becoming a very big movie (thankfully, without Nicolas Cage as Captain Steele). I'll also admit that once I researched The Shack's content, I chose not to read it because it really doesn't fit my belief system. Grief isn't as colorful as Robin Williams' What Dreams May Come, and when you finally find a place in your mind to face it, the setting is rarely as nice as the shack's.
The shit-pie tastes the same, however ...
By now, everyone knows the story of Studio 54, the legendary disco that defined 1970s New York. The 1998 Mike Meyer movie barely scratched the surface, and the club's heyday lasted just over two years, surprisingly short considering the stories that are still remembered today. Having come of age in the 1990s myself - and partied many nights away in Champaign IL's Chester Street (and the long-defunct clubs of 90s' Halsted Street) - I can't even imagine what Studio 54 must have been like. To my knowledge The Club Peorian never covered its dance floor in glitter, though I do remember it hiding the walls in black plastic for Halloween - then keeping the plastic up past Christmas, because the plastic looked so much better than what was underneath. I also remember rumors of someone getting crabs from the barstools.
I have a collection of scrapbooks from the 90s, filled with mementos from hitting the Chicago clubs. With Army of Lovers as their soundtrack, my scrapbooks' pages are packed with flyers, drink coupons, logo'd matchbooks, a micro cassette tape, and long-disconnected phone numbers gathered in the days before text & email. There are no pictures of myself from back then because I always went out alone, hoping to find a hookup. Unlike the glitterati photos in the 54 collection, I have no glossy snapshots to capture what happened in 1990s Illinois; we may have partied like the 70s, but we weren't as cool as we thought. I doubt that Halston ever stopped at White Castle off I-55, on his way home from Touche.
I mention Schrager's book because I found it as sad as The Shack. Both books tell the story of people lost in the past, with two totally different views of heaven - one, from a religious perspective, and the second from those too hungover to get up for Sunday church. I've known a few people over the years who've given up the club scene for quieter lives. I never officially gave up the life myself, though age and a mortgage did cause me to slow down ... along with a couple DUI's. Rather than an official "I'm done with this; I'm ready to settle down," I've been slowly retreating into my head, taking solace within imagination and modern social apps. It's not a pretty thought I know, but as I see more and more William Shatner in the bathroom mirror, it is ... realistic. Or, at least a little more so than finding Octavia Spencer making crescent rolls in the kitchen.
I've also decided to shelve When People Go Away for the time being, and refocus my efforts on finishing The Casual Cafe. WPGA hits too close to home right now, and I'm not going to tackle it until I have a second book under my belt. No, I didn't have a "Christ in the Kitchen" moment, but I am coming out of a verrrrrry long depression, and it's time to tell a story that's fun - and not weighted down by the sadness of the past. I'll tackle WPGA a few years from now, when the idea is as polished as a coffee table book.
So, that's the plan.