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“The Banal and the Profane” is a monthly Lambda Literary column in which we lift the veil on both the writerly life and the publishing industry. In each installment, we ask a different LGBTQ writer, or LGBTQ person of interest in the book industry, to guide us through a week in their lives.
This month’s column comes to us from writer North Morgan.
North Morgan is the author of the fictional blog London Preppy, which has been featured in Dazed & Confused, Time Out, and Attitude, and has attracted over 1.5 million hits. His debut novel, Exit Through the Wound, was published in the UK in 2011 and was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize. In 2015 he became a columnist for Details magazine. In 2018, his novel, Into?, was published in the US by Flatiron/Macmillan. North currently lives and works in Los Angeles.
Sunday, July 8, 2018
On Sunday I wake up for the second time around 11am, which is enough to make anyone feel worthless, but to be honest I have such a hard time sleeping that when it happens, I never feel guilty. I genuinely cannot remember the last time that I slept all through the night: eight hours of pure, uninterrupted rest. I reckon it happens to me once every couple of years or so. I should probably keep a record and celebrate those miraculous occurrences:
“Dear Diary, last night I slept. Is this real life?”
Most of the time I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and I’m so alert that I completely give up any effort to stay in bed. I get up, make some food, collapse under the weight of human existence, browse the internet, and go back to bed 2-3 hours later.
On Sunday afternoon, I decide to work on my next novel for a bit, although I’m just dragging my feet on that at the moment. Planning the structure, splitting up all the different sections, making notes about what episodes will fit where, etc. Anything to avoid actually writing it. I’m very excited about this book, it’s not the lack of ideas or a writer’s block that’s stopping me, but I know that once I start writing, nothing else will get done during my free time for several months. So diving into that process is a very daunting task.
Monday, July 9, 2018
It’s the start of another work week. My regular, non-writing job is in market research, as an analyst. I hardly ever talk about this and I’m sure most people who have read my books or follow me on social media don’t realize I have a full-time job, but what is there to say about it, really? There’s a lot of data. I look at it.
When I’m done, at the end of each day, I ride my bike to the gym, which is 4-5 miles from where I live. I’m sure I could have found a gym that’s closer to home, but all I want to do at the end of each working day is go outside and clear my head from all the numbers, the data tables, the reports. Half an hour on the bike each way to the gym really helps.
Today, just two blocks away from my house, a car hits me. I’m not making this up to create excitement for this article. A car genuinely hits me. It’s not such an unusual occurrence that I’ll have some sort of mishap on the bike though. I’m not a very careful cyclist. I’ve fallen off numerous times, resulting in breaking my wrist, endless other scrapes and bruises, as well as losing my phone without realising it because it fell out of my pocket. I also regularly ride into trees or branches. It’s worth remembering that trees are made out of wood and when you see a leafy branch you think your head can cycle through, the actual leafs that won’t hurt you are attached to a solid piece of wood that will. Somehow this fails to register with me.
Today, however, the accident is not my fault. I’m not even riding hands-free whilst performing full on armography to some Future the rapper jam, or similar. I’m stopped at an intersection with four STOP signs, waiting for the car on my left to go. After it does, I start crossing, and the car that has arrived on my right, as I’m halfway through the intersection, decides to ignore its STOP sign and charges into me. It moves pretty fast and my front wheel meets the driver’s door, knocking me to the ground.
I exclaim “JESUS CHRIST” really loudly and the driver, a woman in her late 30s with an unidentified European accent, starts apologising and asking me if I’m all right. I’m all right, I guess, but I still take her number and a picture of her car. There are several pedestrians around and a few come up to me and offer to be witnesses if I need them, so I take their numbers too and eventually ride away. I guess I did enjoy this accident overall, because I walked away without any injuries whatsoever, but I also got a lot of attention from strangers and that made me really happy.
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
On Tuesday I work again and the less that’s said about that the better, but when I’m done with work around 6pm, I get a text from some dude I exchanged numbers with on Scruff a couple of days ago. During our conversation he had mentioned to me that he had to move out of his place by the end of the month and was currently apartment hunting. I don’t know what possessed me, but when he said that, I asked:
“Would you like to sublet my apartment for a couple of months?”
I’m going to be away from LA for a few weeks in August and September so I thought this was a genius idea. He said that yes, this might be of interest to him, and then he also sent me his nudes, which completely validated the seriousness of this exchange. In return, I sent him a video of my apartment so he could get an accurate idea of the layout and ambiance, and made sure I included shots of me shirtless as I walked past every mirror. On this Tuesday evening, he wants to check whether I’m home so he can come and see the place for himself. I say yes.
On second thought it might not be wise to sublet your apartment to a stranger after exchanging a couple of messages on a hook-up app, but like I said earlier I’m currently in the process of writing a new book, so where am I going to get the inspiration if I don’t throw myself into absurd, ridiculous, and borderline dangerous circumstances?
When he arrives, one of his first moves is to comment how hot it is today, which it is, before lifting his shirt up to wipe the sweat from his forehead. The torso looks pretty good, I can’t lie, but I’m here in a transactional capacity only, and don’t want to do anything sexual with him. I just want to sublet my apartment.
I give him the tour. He asks a couple of questions (“How much are the bills?”, “What are your neighbours like?”, “Do you have underground parking?”) then there’s a really awkward, sexually-charged silence where we’re standing just inches away from each other in the sweltering heat staring into space and we’re very close to jumping each other and making out passionately on the dining table, but nobody dares make the first move, and he eventually leaves.
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
On Wednesday, England is playing against Croatia in the World Cup semi-final. I don’t really care about sports, apart from on an international level when I become furiously involved. There are two countries I support: Greece (where I was born) and England (where I spent my formative years and became the person that I am). Both are pretty tragic in everything they get involved in, with the very occasional glimpse of success, but that satisfies my innate desire for high drama and disappointment. Quite frankly, I couldn’t have chosen two better countries to represent me.
In this World Cup semi-final after a very effective and promising first half, England eventually concedes to Croatia (of course), which makes me tear up in bitter disappointment. It’s probably for the best that Greece wasn’t in its place, because I would have likely started sobbing uncontrollably. Greece’s successes and failures cut a little deeper than England’s, and I assume that’s because my bloodline is Greek and my brain is English, and we all know that the heart always wins.
Thursday, July 12, 2018
On Thursday after work I skip the gym and drive to LA instead to have dinner with my friends Claire and Jeremy. Claire and Jeremy recently became vegan and everyone is wondering how long this will last, but I’m very open minded and willing to give their ridiculous little fad a proper chance. We go to a vegan restaurant where you have to order your food not by its name or ingredients, but by the corresponding declaration for each dish on the menu. So, for example, you can’t say, “I would like the red lentil curry bowl”, but you have to say, “I am Humble”. The waiter will know what you mean. Today I guess “I am Glorious”, which means that I’m having the blackened tempeh Caesar wrap, and Claire and Jeremy are several combinations of “Magical”, “Liberated”, and “Bountiful” (they are very hungry).
I guess I do value my Thursday night vegan experience overall, but to be honest the whole thing feels like jerking off for an hour and never quite reaching climax. I stop at the grocery store on the way home and buy a packet of sliced turkey, which I devour in the parking lot. I’m sorry, but it turns out that something or somebody really has to die for me to be happy.
Friday, July 13, 2018
On Friday evening some friends are coming over to Santa Monica to go to the beach, watch the sunset, have some drinks and whatnot. Generally I would like to be part of that, but I socialised with people last night and I can’t do that two days in a row. So I go to the gym instead.
When I come home, I check my Instagram and answer some people’s direct messages about my book, Into?, which came out in May this year. I don’t think readers had such instant and direct access to writers to discuss their work until recent years (I suppose writing a letter was always an option, but that’s not quite the same) but it is something I really enjoy. I don’t always have all the time in the world to get into the scope of my work with people who reach out, although I appreciate anyone who does, but quite often it does make me happy to engage and discuss characters, drive, and meaning, and hear what different people got out of reading the book.
Saturday, July 14, 2018
On Saturday morning, the guy from Scruff who came over to see my apartment earlier in the week sends me a message to let me know that unfortunately he will not be subletting from me after all. He took a different place. “I’m sorry, man”, he says. “But I really did find an amazing spot.”
In the afternoon I go to the beach with a group of friends and we stay there all day. We go back to my place for a bit, chill out and have dinner, and then go out to the only gay bar in Santa Monica, a place called the Birdcage. There are five of us.
At some point, a girl walks up to our group and starts talking. What are our names, she asks. Do we live near here? Are we having a good night? Then her two friends also join us: another girl and a gay guy. It becomes apparent that the gay friend is interested in one of my friends, Mitch. More casual conversation takes place. What work do we all do, the gay friend asks. Mitch says that he’s a sound editor. “Mitch just got nominated for an Emmy”, one of my other friends, Brett, offers to the group. Which is true, he did. The two girls and the guy think that’s awesome, and they also share details about their jobs. They all work in film, somehow. The guy is in a production company, one of the girls works in special effects, and the first girl who came up to us works in marketing for a studio. Mitch, embarrassed by his Emmy nomination announcement, but also not really interested in the gay guy who’s hitting on him, tries to divert attention away from himself, and cheerfully announces: “Well, North is an author and his new book just got a great review in The New York Times!”
The girl who works in special effects blurts out, “Um, that’s nice, but nobody cares about that in LA. Nobody reads here. Is this book going to be a TV show or what?” And I can’t help but guffaw because she’s 100% right.
We all stay in the bar for an hour or so and then I head home for another sleepless night.