Trying to Find the Person-Shaped Absences

I need to remember this for my next chapter–the thought I had when I woke up this morning. The kind of history that I’m trying to write for Nashville is, in some parts, a history of holes–where you look at the people we do have information about and try to figure out what that would mean for the person we don’t.

Today at Pith, I talk about Mary Overton–a woman with two prominent husbands, a really significantly historical father, and a prominent family. You look at everything you know about the people you know about and see if you can discern from all that the life of the woman central to all of them.

And, of course, it’s hard. It’s deliberately hard. The people whose histories are so hard to come by–women, minorities–their lives are hard to come by on purpose. Names left out, chances to write their own stories denied.

Anyway. It’s sad and frustrating.

Informal History Week at Pith

I have a post on the thing I found in Ron Ramsey’s office. I will have a post on our chances of digging up Timothy Demonbreun. And, you guys! I spent all afternoon at Traveller’s Rest, sitting in the office where the old kitchen used to be, talking about history and Overtons and I got to ask if everyone was given an Overton upon their arrival at Nashville and they laughed.

And more importantly, even though I did not get to buy one–Traveller’s Rest has pie birds! In the gift shop.

Plus, I got to introduce Traveller’s Rest to Ben & Sue Allen’s The Thing, which, you may recall, from my incessant babbling about it, has many Overton connections–from Ben’s cousins to the Baxters’ friendship/enemyship with Dickinson.

And the other cool thing–Okay, I’ll just be honest that I learned many cool things–that I learned was that Mrs. Overton’s first husband was Andrew Jackson’s personal physician (a job with real security), hence how she ended up with a kid named Andrew Jackson May.

Plus, plus, I’m going to the TSLA at the end of the month to read to them about the fictional feud they fictionally had with the state museum over The Wolf’s Bane. I am so tickled.

I do feel a little bad for insisting the Butcher walk the dog this morning, because he was being so obnoxious yesterday after a week of very little getting-out-and-walking-around, and now it’s raining.

But pie birds!

Doing Nothing Wrong

I wrote about the Radnor Lake Rambo for Pith today. And I’ve been thinking a lot about how, if his crusade is not about publicly escalating his one-man terror-fest until he works up the guts to shoot someone, it’s about demanding the right to be thought of as harmless, no matter what social cues he’s giving off.

You see this come up in other situations, where men get mad when they know they’re just being nice guys by doing something–say following a girl home (to make sure she makes it), or offering to buy a woman a drink after she’s made it clear she no longer wants to talk to you–that sets off the “this guy is trouble” red flag. Like they’re really pissed that they’re not being thought of as harmless.

There are other instances, but you get the gist. And people try to make the argument that, hey, you might be harmless, but you’re doing this red-flag activity and we are not psychic so we have no way of knowing if the guy on campus with a gun is a good guy or a bad guy or if the guy following us home is a good guy or a rapist or if the woman flirting with our partners is friendly or has ill-intentions.

But you can’t indulge in mildly bad, scary behavior and still be treated like you’re harmless. That’s a really weird thing to ask of the world.

Forrest

I would have loved writing papers in college so much more if I’d been able to say back then things like “He eventually realized he’d shit the bed on his historical legacy and it wasn’t going to come clean.”

If you’ve ever seen a young Southern white guy who loves Forrest talking about him, you’ve probably come as close as you’re going to come to seeing the equivalent of the Beauty & the Beast dynamic in a straight guy. “Oh, Nathan, he’s not so bad. I understand him, even if no one else does. Only I can soothe his tortured soul. If I hang out and talk about Nate a lot, my other friends get weirded out, but I love him and I just wish they could see in him what I do. Hell, I only wish Nate-eee-poo could see in himself what I see there.” They can redeem the monster, through true love and books.

Anyway, here.

Wicked Smart?

Oh, you guys, just when I’m like “What am I doing with my life? Do the things I do even matter?” I read this:

For some years I’ve been a fan of Betsy Phillip’s writing, she’s wicked smart and has a razor sharp style and calls out BS for what it is. I’m sure some readers get a little uncomfortable with her honesty and her views since she doesn’t shrink away from tough issues. Her work at Pith In The Wind has been a must-read.

That is really lovely. I don’t feel very brave, but that paragraph makes me sound really bad-ass.

Times Like This

On the one hand, I’m going to be so happy when the Butcher’s car is fixed. Because this waking up at a quarter to six when I’m used to waking up at twenty after is doing me in. It doesn’t seem like it should be that big a deal, but it seems like I’m missing some crucial last part of a sleep cycle or something.

But on the other hand, I like having a half an hour a day where we just talk about shit. Not that we don’t do that at home, but… well, no, not really. We’re watching TV or each doing our own thing.

Anyway, I wrote this thing for Pith. What I’m mulling over is that we tell history like it is just one great person popping up, island after island, like Hawaii in metaphorical terms. But you can’t look too closely at any particular person without seeing all the ways they’re tired to the people who came before them.

Rock City Marches

Yesterday, K. hooked me up with a guy who could play all the Rock City Marches I had. It was amazing to be sitting in a room, the three of us, listening to music we weren’t sure anyone had heard in decades.

I really love the feeling of going into the TSLA and finding things and knowing that I might be seeing something that no one has seen in years. But this experience of turning around and sharing it with others is also really amazing.

But, yes, as I say in my post, I ended up apparently a Rock City march short. But on Twitter, a guy from the State Museum offered to see if he could track down their copy.

How is this my life? I honestly don’t know. I have all these incredibly interesting people I know who all are happy to help me feed my curiosity. I don’t even know why. But it’s pretty awesome. My hope is that it’s awesome for them, too.

A Shift

I’ve been around at the other place long enough now that people, finally, hunt me down to tell me things they think I should think about. Like my opinion matters. Or carries any weight. It’s weird, considering how futile it feels to try to get people to change their minds.

I don’t know. Mostly I just think it’s weird. Like, why now, after all this time, am I worth hunting down?

Maybe it’s just the problem with the media pool shrinking. Everyone still in the water stands out.

Bah

My Andrew Jackson thing is not coming together how I’d like.

But I wrote about hostage-taking for Pith. I fully expect, since Ramsey appears to be saying that he’s holding out on medicaid expansion because fuck hospitals, this will become a bigger story. It’s fucking evil. Genuine political disagreements I get. Holding hostages because your feelings are hurt? We’re a state, not the fucking mob.

Nashville Scene-ing It Up

I wrote a piece about Joe Carr.. You can tell I was thinking hard yesterday about conspiracy theories and how they work.

And in the actual paper, not on the blog, I wrote a story about Nashville’s first real Thanksgiving and what took us so long to get around to it.

And J.R. Lind’s story about spiced round has convinced me to serve it this Christmas to my family. Bwah ha ha ha ha ha ha. I am trying to learn how one serves it, but that hardly matters. When reviving a dying tradition, ruin it! That’s what I always say. (Note: that is not what I always say. Obviously, what I always say is “When reviving a dying tradition, add the Devil and some fool who fucks him.” But that’s not how I want to spend Christmas with my family.)

Tearing Down Buildings

In an unintended, but now hilarious to me, coincidence, my story, “Beyond, Behind, Below“–about what happens when you fuck with a dude’s ancient wreck of a cabin–is out the same day I argue we should tear down the United Methodist Publishing House building and not feel bad about it for even a second.

Anyway, check out the whole issue of Betwixt. There’s some really great stuff in there.

And then feel free to come back and tell me if you like the story.

 

Rape Stuff at Pith

I wrote about some of the nebulous hand-wringing I’ve seen when people are trying to figure out how the Vanderbilt football player rape could have happened.

I’m really disturbed to see that even Vanderbilt’s dean of students seems to believe in the accidental rapist. And fuck, even if you do believe in the existence of the accidental rapist, surely we can all agree that the accidental rapist doesn’t bring home a passed-out girl, stage a break-in, cover up the moving of her unconscious body, and let his friends take turns with her while he makes souvenir footage. None of that is a mistake. In fact, it shows repeated intention.

Like Sarcastro said on Twitter, the staging of the break-in and the covering of the camera indicate the kind of planning based on previous trial-and-error. I would bet at least one of these guys has previous victims.

Anyway, also be sure to check out the first comment, which may be the stupidest comment I’ve ever gotten at Pith. Which is a remarkable achievement.