The best part of this afghan, even though it makes it practically unwashable, is the different yarns I’m using on it and the different ways they look. Not just in color, but in texture:
I feel so low right about now and every damn year I’m surprised by it. I can’t believe it’s only Thursday. This week has been so long. I’m having lunch with a friend of my mom’s tomorrow. I don’t know why. I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me. She knew my mom in grade school.
But I guess she’s in town for some medical tests and who wants to come to a strange city alone for medial tests and have no one to have lunch with? I sure as fuck wouldn’t.
So, that’s why I said yes.
I just feel like this time of year is the time of year when the things we want from each other and the things we’re capable of actually doing for each other stand in stark contrast, bleak contrast, to each other and it makes me sad.
It’s almost hilariously cold in my office. I’m basically typing this in order to keep my fingers functioning.
The Butcher is on vacation this week. He wasn’t home when I got home from work last night and I’m not sure when he got home, except that I don’t think it was much before I got up.
The funniest part to me is that you’d think the dog would be in heaven, with his sweet man staying at home with him. But I swear he’s been being so sweet to me and so good on our walks that I suspect he’s a little tired of having people around all the time, because it’s cutting into his napping time.
I’ve been working on short stories because the Nashville book is depressing and I need to be doing some reading for it, but I’ve been not in that headspace.
And I think we have our Christmas plans settled. We’ll see.
I think that the Old English love of riddles captures something of the way they approached life: life is a puzzle, but one to be encountered with joy and wit rather than despair. A lot of art is mimetic, but the relationship between riddles and reality is ironic, playful, tricky. Something similar can be said of the two modes of art, ‘realism’ (mimetic) and Fantasy (ironic).
The Anglo-Saxon world from which Tolkien took so much inspiration saw the universe as a riddle, and prized an ironic stance with respect to it. Not that courage and loyalty and strength were unimportant (of course, they were vitally important), but that a warrior hold his strength lightly, that he face death with a smile, that he fight more fiercely in the teeth of certain defeat. I am not talking about flippancy, or a more clumsy disrespectful. I am talking about accepting that there is a mismatch between our human abilities to understand and the brute fact of the cosmos.–Adam Roberts, via i09
On our walk, a hundred crows, or what looked like a hundred crows–I didn’t count them–passed over our heads all calling to each other. I stood there, just gape-mouthed at how many of them there were. Not as many as collect on Vanderbilt’s campus, but many more than I’ve ever seen in the neighborhood.
And then I realized, I was standing there with my mouth open while birds flew overhead.
Probably not my wisest moment.
DO NOT PRESS PLAY ON THIS VIDEO AT WORK.
But literally nothing makes me happier than the way she says “I guess that cunt’s getting eaten.” Sometimes you look at the way words work together and you just know something is perfect. This sentence is perfect–the repeating “uh”s in “guess” and “cunt;” all those “t”s, especially the way it sounds like she’s adding one by pronouncing it “get” “ten” and “eat” “ten.” And it’s cheeky. I like it.
Recently, I wrote this paragraph:
My favorite thing about Harwell is her ability to be both sly as a fox and something of a mother hen to all the wayward chicks of the state house. A fox with chicks for children is never short of dinner, though, and I have to imagine she’s already licking her lips at the prospect of dealing with her fourteen most recalcitrant representatives.
And I’m really pleased with “a fox with chicks for children.” That is perfect, too. You’ve got the repeating fs, the repeating chs and the repeating os and is. I also like it because it’s almost in iambs, except for that “ren” fucking things up.
1. I’m kind of pissed that it has taken Constantine so long to get good. It’s frustrating to watch now knowing it’s probably going to be cancelled. I wish, wish, wish we switched to a model where they just up-front said “You get x episodes to tell your story. If your ratings are good, we’ll give you x more episodes to tell another complete story, either with these characters or a whole new show.” That way, you could commit to watching a show knowing you were going to get a self-contained story, even if you only got one story out of it.
2. The dog teased me yesterday. We were on our walk and I said, come here, let me put your leash on, and he came over and just as I was about to put his leash on, he bounded away, and turned back and smiled at me. I laughed and then he came over and leaned against my legs and let me put his leash on him.
3. The performance art afghan. It’s… I don’t even know how to explain it to you. It’s ridiculous. So, I think I’ve decided that it’s going to be 30 x 40 tiny two-inch squares. Thus necessitating 1200 squares. I’m doing them in bundles of twelve, because I had thought I was doing 36×48, but I realized too late after I’d started bundling them in groups of twelve, that this would result in way too huge an rectangly an afghan. So, I need 100 bundles. I have 70 but I’m out of yarn. The yarn is on order. So, I am, at the moment, tucking ends. Every end tuck I remind myself is one more end I will not have to tuck after all 1200 squares are done. My biggest concern is making sure that the squares are well-mixed in the end. No, my biggest concern is that I’m not going to live through having to tuck 1200 squares worth of ends. It’s my least favorite thing about crocheting. Why would I assign myself a task that’s basically just end-tucking?! But I think it’s going to be really neat. Unwashable which I have mixed feelings about (M. do not fuck or bleed or sweat on my afghan, please.) but neat.
4. It’s unwashable because I just bought yarn that caught my eye, so it’s a mix of acrylics and wool and wool blends. Nothing will shrink at the same rate and some shit will definitely felt.
5. It does crack me up to think that most of my afghans are safe for fucking, bleeding, or sweating on. I should make afghans for swashbucklers!
That’s what I gathered from the Battle of Nashville stuff. All the women were crocheting. As you may remember, I’m on a quest to try to understand why Nashville doesn’t have a sheep-eating culture, even though we seem to happily eat anything else., since nm pointed it out to me.
So, yesterday, I talked to a Civil War reenactor who raises sheep for wool out in Wilson County and she has a theory I think may be the correct one. Almost all sheep in Middle Tennessee were, first and foremost, for wool. People out in the country who raise sheep, even wool sheep, do eat lamb at Easter. Even now. But it’s got to be a special occasion that you’d be willing to eat something that’s going to make you money for the rest of its life.
If you were eating the sheep from your herd regularly, it meant something had gone really wrong for you–that you were so desperate to eat that you couldn’t wait for wool to sell. So, she thinks that eating sheep, except at Easter, may have become associated with deprivation and hard times, here. And that may be why there’s not a lot of sheep eating here. It had for a long time, the connotation of hard times, and, even when it didn’t have those connotations anymore, we didn’t have the years of recipes and traditions about eating it.
I don’t know. But it seems plausible.
Grief is a son of a bitch. It just comes when it wants, makes itself at home, and then leaves without warning.
Last night, I dreamed that I had gotten the Butcher what was supposed to be the best video game out this season (you were a woman who collects a band of ne’er-do-wells to solve puzzles and conquer the world) and he and the Red-headed Kid were playing it. I was getting a drink of water at the kitchen sink and waiting for the rain to stop so that I could go to some book thing here in town, which I was late for and still not packed. I looked out in the yard and there was Sadie, just hanging out with the cats by the back door, waiting for someone to notice that she wasn’t in the house.
“You guys left the dog out,” I yelled at the guys.
“No we didn’t,” they insisted. But I saw her, right by the back door. I opened the kitchen door to let her in and she came walking in just like usual. I keep the door open to see if the cats wanted to come inside, since it was raining, and that was when I realized something wasn’t right, because I couldn’t focus on the orange cat. Everything around him was in focus, but he remained blurry and seemingly headless. I then realized I didn’t hear the dog in the house. I turned to look behind me and there was Sonnyboy, asleep.
And then I realized this was a dream. Which I found upsetting, so I woke up.
Creepy story about a family’s basement. Courtesy of J.
Yesterday, I was having this same conversation in three different iterations, basically about how someone who did something really detestable in the course of his job, is now doing something else in the course of his job that seems like it needs to be engaged with and should we engage with it or not?
Like, imagine if Jame O’Keefe discovered some government corruption. Does anyone have any obligation to keep checking back in with O’Keefe to discover that this time he was right?
I say no.
But one thing that I find really striking and, I admit, very confusing is that part of the reason it seems like bad actors never go entirely away is this idea that there’s no one else to take their place. Like, it’s better to have a shitty, toxic writer who occasionally writes the things we want written than to not have him or no one will write the things we want written.
Even at lunch yesterday they were playing this interview with this guy who wrote a biography of Richard Pryor and, even though it was obvious that the biographer adored him, Pryor comes across like a nightmare jerk. And I get it–really. Because he was a genius. And his nightmare jerk-dom cost him some. He’s not in Blazing Saddles, for instance.
Eh, maybe Pryor’s a bad example because racism does keep the number of opportunities for black people limited.
But here’s the thing I have learned living in Nashville. Everybody has talent. A lot of talent. The best guitar player you ever heard is not even the best guitar player you might here that night. Being able to do the thing you want to do is just the bare minimum requirement. You need to be lucky and work hard and show up and be lucky some more. Because there are always ten other people who have as much talent as you–but maybe they’re sick today or hungover (or still drunk) or too scared to show up or don’t have the support they need or whatever.
I genuinely don’t get why the media doesn’t seem to get this. You don’t want to work with that Johnson guy because he seems too intense and loose with the facts? There must be fifty conservative young people who can write who would love his opportunities. I mean, I think I could find fifty and I have almost no connections to conservative young people.
I don’t like a world in which people get cut at the first sign of wrong-doing. But every conversation I had yesterday with this in the background, it seems like a lot of editors believe that there’s just not that much good writing out there–that no matter what the issues with person X are, no matter how big and prolific their fuck-ups, if person X is a known quantity, it’s better to work with person X than to not have anyone who can do it.
But there are other people who can do it. I don’t think I’m wrong about this. I see so many fucking talented writers in my life every day. There are at least five of you who comment here regularly whose books, which, as far as I know you’ve not written and maybe have no intention of writing, that I want to read and be able to fan-girl out about. But I believe, if you turned your attention to it, you could write a kick ass book, because I see your talent here.
There are an almost unlimited number of guitarists. You wouldn’t believe a band in Nashville who couldn’t find a guitarist. And being a guitarist has start-up costs–you have to get a guitar. To be a writer, you just have to write. The number of writers out there is enormous, mind-bogglingly enormous. If even only a fraction of us are talented, that fraction still represents a sizable number of people.
It simply can’t be true that there’s no one else to do the work. But the assumption that there aren’t enough talented writers seems pretty wide-spread.
(I need to get in the shower, but I find this attitude especially frustrating when you stop to think about how grossly underrepresented women and minorities are in writing. It’s like, dudes, stop looking for writers in just this one place and you will find a ton of them.)
I have been slightly light-headed and dizzy all week. At first, I thought it was stress, since I didn’t feel that way over the weekend. Then I became convinced that it might have to do with the weirdness with my eye, like maybe my depth perception is off and it’s making me a little vertiginous (I think that’s the right word–feeling like I have vertigo). Then yesterday, I became convinced that I was having either a stroke or a heart attack.
But last night, I had this weird kind of crawly sensation around my head and I thought “Could this be a weird migraine?” Because I’ve had some weird migraines in the past. So, I took some migraine medicine and I slept like a baby.
I’m still feeling a little out of it this morning. But I don’t think I’m having a stroke. At least I hope not, because I have a lot to do.
You guys, I have been staring at this blank screen for like five minute. Just staring and thinking of nothing. It’s been quite refreshing.
I knew this was going to be a busy month. But I really had no idea.
This morning, on my way into work, they were playing Cheech and Chong’s Santa and His Old Lady bit. And wow, I hadn’t heard that since I was a kid and, when I heard it when I was a kid, I bet you a million dollars, I didn’t get it.
But, wow. It’s fantastic. It just a really well-written story. And listening to it, I felt this growing suspicion that I might be hearing something that, even if I had consciously forgotten about it, I hadn’t ever really forgotten about it. Because I think how I tell stories is pretty heavily indebted to this:
Slavery is its own thing, but, in order to really get your head around it, you have to, I think, compare it to other things. Slavery isn’t rape, though a lot of slaves were raped. But definitely watching how America deals with rape now can give you some clues as to what was going on with slavery. And watching how racism plays out now… well, same thing.
This morning, as I was thinking about it, I realized that racism plays a very important part in slavery beyond the justification for why slavery is “okay.” Racism is very important because it lets bystanders off the hook.
We’ve talked about this with rape–how there are relatively few rapists but they find cover in a society that seems geared to believe that any man, at any second, might be accused of being a rapist or, worse, might, through no fault of his own except having misunderstood his victim’s intentions, accidentally be a rapist.
So, back to slavery. We’ve talked, too, extensively about how it was impossible to really be a good slave owner. You could be good or you could be a slave owner, but you couldn’t be both, because, at some point, if you are a slave owner, you’re going to be buying rape victims from their rapists, torture victims from their torturers or selling people to people you have to know are going to rape and torture them. You are a part of the system that makes that rape and torture possible.
But it’s so important, if slavery is going to work, for the slave owners who don’t rape and torture (I’m drawing an uncomfortable distinction here between people who “just” physically coerced their captives and people who tortured them, but people, in general, were just more physically violent back then. People beat their kids and their spouses. They beat each other up for fun. They beat their slaves. And it’s not like we no longer do those things, but the scale and scope is just different now. So, I’m trying to draw a distinction, just for the sake of this point, between extraordinary violence–torture–and ordinary violence–everyone is getting knocked upside the head at some point–and not to excuse or downplay the latter.) to have a way to not see the rape and torture. And not just that, but to believe that the rapists and torturers aren’t getting a fair shake. That they need defending, because, at any moment, any slave owner might unfairly be accused of rape and torture.
This is where racism comes in. Black people are liars. Black people don’t feel pain the way white people do. Black people are lusty, practically animals in their “mating.” Black people are… oh and we hear the echoes of this right now in that case in L.A. where the school district is trying to argue that a girl with mental disabilities can’t really suffer from sexual abuse the same way a smart kid could… too stupid to really understand what’s happening to them. Black people are just looking for reasons to be upset, when really, they’re exaggerating the problem. Black leaders are just stirring them up. Etc. etc. etc.
America, by now, we all know this song well enough to sing along.
It just helps put up this screen. White people who are racist don’t have to feel the great discomfort that might spur them into bucking or dismantling the system. Racism is the mechanism by which white people learn to be just fine with horrendous evil. Not just racial inequality, should we ever get to the point when that’s the mountain we have to deal with. But the utter… I want to say “disregard” for black lives, but I feel, too, like that’s refusing to look our history and our society now straight in the face. Our society runs on the destruction of non-white bodies. Even our classism, and we’re a deeply classist society, too, is, like our homophobia is built on men being afraid of being treated by other men how they treat women, our classim has an element of treating poor white bodies like the trash (poor white trash) we treat non-white bodies like.
Racism isn’t the cause of slavery. As people will point out, there have been slaves throughout history. But racism, in our society, gathers like a thick fog to both justify slavery and to obscure from view everything that would make it seem unjustified. Racism is the mechanism by which white evildoers are shielded from justice.
I did one thing on Saturday and one thing on Sunday and I could have slept like the dog. I just need to make it through these two weeks and I’ll have some semblance of a vacation around Christmas.
My parents are concocting some plan for us all to go down to my brother’s house for Christmas so that his girlfriend can cook Christmas dinner for us. We’ll have to talk more about it this week, but I’m of the opinion that this simply is not going to happen. They can’t afford those kinds of groceries and it seems really grossly unfair to expect someone–again who is not related to us or legally tied to us–to make us dinner, especially without asking.
I will say, though, that I find it more interesting to watch at 40 than to live through at her age. They really, truly, do expect that some woman is just going to fucking do all the shit and that the person who has to do all the shit is a woman and is the woman least capable of telling them to go pound sand.
I felt like that when I was going through it, but I didn’t have the perspective to know if it was true.
But man, I’ll make Christmas dinner, at my house, where people who have a small child can watch that child and relax and not work any harder than they have to. And by “they” I mean “she” because that’s the truth of it.
I don’t know, I mean, I guess we’re all bags of dicks in our own ways, but my parents want something from my brother’s girlfriend (which I find irritating and uncool) which will then make them feel like they’re getting something from my brother (again, uncool, but poignant) which they are never going to get. I mean, even if she were up for it (and it’s impossible to be up for. It’s soul-crushing.), getting your emotional needs met by one person doesn’t make you feel whole with the other person.
What they want from my brother, he can’t give them.
So, the guy who was going to try to get eaten by an anaconda had to call it off after the anaconda started squeezing him. Um… how else did he think the anaconda was going to do it? Did he not even once watch a constrictor eat? I mean, did he consider the part where the snake puts its teeth into the prey, too?
The dog is snoring so loudly I can hardly hear the traffic out on the highway.
I believe the way for things to change for women is for women to come together for each other, to check on each other, to find each other and tell each other our stories.
But I have to say, I keep thinking about how often Death is a woman, the rivers, lakes, and streams are women, sailors can be married to the ocean, and all those ancient earth goddesses. All the places you might put a woman where she’ll never be found, they’re all considered to be feminine spaces.
I don’t know. It makes me sad.
I’m having more and more trouble seeing to drive at night. If it’s raining, I can’t drive. For at least a year, I’ve been avoiding socializing with people on rainy evenings because I don’t feel safe driving home.
It’s finally bad enough–meaning I’m starting not to feel safe after dark period–that I’m seeing the doctor. Here in a minute.
I wonder if I can put a chauffeur on my insurance. I wonder if I could get Diggle… Hmm… A driver who can do the salmon ladder.
Ugh, this week. It’s been long. Some things have been going incredibly well. Other things have just been terrible.
I’m having a huge problem with an entity. Ha ha ha. That makes them sound like some kind of supernatural evil, when I’m just trying to be vague.
But in dealing with this entity, I have a bunch of really complicated feelings. This entity opened up the world for me when I was a young person. It made every bit of information in the world, seemingly, available to me and that felt life-saving in ways that made me feel very loyal to them. And I have friends whose lives have been profoundly changed by this entity’s ability to deliver information to an electronic device you can use even when your hands don’t want to work, allowing you to make the font as big as you need, no matter how shitty your eyesight is.
And, even though people have been complaining about this entity for years, I was mostly in the camp that people who can’t keep up with rapid change are, of course, going to complain about innovators. And even when this entity took on another giant entity this summer, I thought I saw both sides of the situation. I was more sympathetic to the other entity, but I felt like I could see and understand the point of view of the people who sided with this entity.
After nine months on this job, I feel like a total chump.
Everything bad you’ve heard about this entity is just the tip of the iceberg.
I find it really stunning.
The dog has never come when I called him. He has eventually come when I get very angry, but he’s pretty terrible about coming when I call him otherwise. I’ve had many occasions over the past two weeks to call his name and want him to come to me and he has gotten much better about doing so.
Every time he comes to me when I call his name if we’re outisde, he cowers when he approaches me–tail between his legs, his back curved away from me, his head down, like he doesn’t dare not come, but he really, really doesn’t want to.
I have never hit him out of anger. I regularly have to smack his big yellow butt because it is big and yellow and it’s a butt. But I have never hit him in anger.
The Butcher, who can actually be scary when he yells, has never seen the dog cower like he does when he comes up to me.
I have laughed, for a year, at his great love of men. But, dear readers, he doesn’t have some unnatural love of men. He is, in his own good-natured way, a little afraid of women. He clearly tries not to be a jerk about it, so it took me a long, long time to realize it.
But he’s only now starting to overcome the fear that I’m going to really hurt him.
Which is funny considering the number of times he’s poked his eyeball on my toe. You’d think that would be quite painful.
But no, this is some older hurt.
I find it really touching, though, that he is, in general, such a good boy that it took me this long to recognize it.
This has been a ridiculously stressful week, full of people saying things they otherwise wouldn’t. I hid under my covers last night and listened to my heart, thumping so hard in my chest, and I wondered if there was one single thing I wasn’t in over my head in.
There is not.
–I’m less bothered by the people who don’t believe that anything happened to Shia LaBeauf than I am the women I’ve seen who believe that he’s telling the truth about what happened to him, but that it’s not rape because the point of his performance art was that you could do anything to him. He had, apparently in their minds, pre-consented to having sex. They also seem to blame him for not crying out for help, apparently ignoring the part where her boyfriend was at the door–keeping anyone who might have heard and helped him at bay.
I don’t know. Anyone who’s seen how people act around people with even marginal amounts of fame can’t possibly be surprised, I wouldn’t think, by this story.
But I think it’s a two-fold problem: we have a hard time as a culture accepting that men can be raped and we have a really hard time believing that women can commit the same kinds of wrongs that men can.
Still, man, people are weird about famous people. I have a harder time believing this didn’t happen than I do believing that it did.
–The Butcher made me listen to the slowed-down Robert Johnson recordings this morning. They’re going around again, for some reason. There are two hurdles that someone would have to overcome before I put any stock in this: 1. Both of his recording sessions were fucked up? But no one else who recorded on those days with that equipment was? 2. He had friends and people who knew him. Some of whom died very recently (and hell, some of whom might still be alive). Is there even a single person who heard him perform live who then listened to the records and said “Wow, that doesn’t sound like old Bob. It’s too high or something.”? He had a lot of musician acquaintances and friends who would have been familiar with recording processes. Did any of them say “Oh, god, that’s not at the right speed.”?
–Last night, I made chicken noodle soup for dinner and the Butcher caught me singing “Oh, black pepper, ram a lam” and he laughed so hard it kind of makes my day to think of it now.
–The Nashvillains book is harder than I imagined. Here in the middle anyway. I have been thinking a lot about Alfred, lately, Andrew Jackson’s slave who’s buried in the Hermitage garden. A man long held up as an example of just how benign slavery could be and how much slaves might love their owners. His was, I guess you could say, a best-case scenario. Scroll on down to the green sign.
I have to give credit to the Hermitage, though, for trying to reckon with it.
I don’t know how to, really. I find myself using words other than “slave” to try to get at the scope of it, just because, to me, it’s become a kind of mental shield as well as a descriptor. It lets you narrow down to just one part of it. And, because of the weight of history, it feels almost inevitable. So, I’ve been using “enslaved person” but I’ve also been using “prisoner” and “captive.” Something that makes it clear that these people are not in this situation by accident of birth, but because of someone else’s ongoing decision to keep them in this condition.
But I have a mental block against that, too. I want to see the past as clearly as I can. And I still find this so horrific it’s hard for me to look straight at it. You just kept some people prisoner at your house. That was the fashion of the day. You sold your prisoners to others or exchanged them for new prisoners. You kept your prisoners’ children prisoner as well, but you often let them play with your children. Sometimes you raped your prisoners and they had your children. You took those children, your own children, captive as well.
This was normal. It’s what people aspired to–to be rich enough to afford your own prisoners. It was a mark of status to have captives.
It’s ludicrous. But I think it also sheds light on what was going on with guys like Jackson–whose prisoners had guns and could read and write, even though it was illegal for you to let your captives do so–or the Macons–whose prisoner, Jack, practiced medicine, even though it was illegal.
Why would men who imagined themselves free enough to own property and bad-ass enough to hold prisoners for generations submit to any kind of overarching authority? Each man is is own pirate enclave.
It’s one of those things that does make me wonder how the Confederacy would have ever actually governed, when so many slaveholders thought laws about slavery were dumb.