I Felt It

Okay, I had a chance this morning to give it a really good look. It’s about as long as my finger, just this straight line with a little bruising on either side. One end is near my arm pit the other closer to my nipple. It feels kind of hard, especially at the ends. And it’s very sensitive. The surgeon said that the hardness will go away after a long while. The incision strikes me both as being enormous and too small, but I think that’s just on account of its narrowness.

I got to sleep without a bra last night and, for the first time in two weeks, I slept really well.

I want to say something about how it felt to stand naked in front of my mom at this age, because I could not get dressed or undressed without help, or shower without help, or brush my own hair. How it made me feel so tenderly toward her to know that this is what she did for me when I was growing up and that this is what she would do for me, even now, when I needed it. But I don’t know how to put it into words.

I also want to say something about how much it meant to me, when I was hungry and I was convinced that there wasn’t anything to eat, I went to the fridge and found the last piece of the One Ton Lasagna or how much it meant to me that people called and came by and checked on me, even though I was a grouchy mess.

This blog is going to turn ten years old in a little over a week. And most of the good things in my life have come to me because of it. Because of you guys.

Let’s all get drunk, throw our arms around each other, vow we’ll see each other soon, even if we know we might never see each other again, and sing.

All is Well

I went back to the surgeon just now and it turns out that the reason the phyllodes tumor didn’t look quite how they expected during the biopsy is that it was just an ambitious fibroadenoma. And I have almost no scar. It’s just like a straight line _______. Well, longer, but that’s it. No stitches, no puffing. Just a long straight line _________________. I guess about like that. I don’t know. I’m not putting my boob to the screen to compare.

But the best news is that I don’t have to wear a bra to bed anymore! Because that is unpleasant in the summer.

The Year Life Had Other Plans

Each year kind of has a theme. Last year was “No, Not California!” and this year, I’ve decided is “But Life Had Other Plans.”

Not all in bad ways, either, just that a year ago, I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d be right here in many ways, though I rightly would have predicted I was sitting on the couch.

Hits

It irritates me so much, too, that everyone is like “Oh, Ray Rice! He’s so terrible.” and yet they’ll pass along quotes from Bill Hobbs.

Also, I guess I’ve read some good arguments for why people shouldn’t view the video, but I’ll also say this–when “sources” inside the NFL, who all mysteriously seem not to have seen the video before yesterday, were saying this summer that the video in the elevator gave more context and made what happened outside the elevator more understandable, when they were saying that the events in the elevator were why they could still stand by Rice and why the Ravens felt comfortable having a tweet talking about how Mrs. Rice apologized for her role in the altercation. This video was supposed to explain things.

So, those sick fuck liars made the elevator video an issue by making it an excuse for their unwillingness to do what decent people who just saw how he treated her afterwards thought should be done. I watched the video not to see what happened to her–I knew what happened to her–but to see if the surrounding events matched up with what I’d been told was on the video.

Those surrounding events did not. To put it mildly. And that’s on those sick fuck liars, who watched that video and then lied about what was on it so that they could keep their meal ticket on the field.

The Thing about Franklin

I think the thing that bothers me most about Isaac Franklin, which is both why I want him in my book and why I’m finding it really unsettling to have to ponder him as a human being, is that, as far as I can tell, he was “one of the good ones.” By the standards of his time, he was a respected businessman who, while occasionally upsetting the people of Natchez by leaving dead enslaved people all around the outskirts of town, was a lot of people’s preferred trader to do business with.

The other successful slave traders who were at Franklin & Armfield’s level–or at least who could reasonably aspire to be–had some really shady business practices that people at the time found shadier than Franklin & Armfield’s, a fact Franklin & Armfield regularly used to their advantage to increase their own sales.

In their own context, these were good businessmen and good people (which is why the University of the South took Armfield’s money) who, yes, had the distasteful job of slave trading, but aside from that. In other words, they had reputations similar to how we view used car salesmen. People kind of thought the job was icky and involved a level of them trying to pull one over on you, but success spoke for itself.

When white people in the South say that their slave-owning ancestors were good people, here’s the rub–if they’re telling the truth (and let’s not doubt that they are), a good person in the early 1800s would have, if he needed to, bought his slaves from Franklin & Armfield. That would have been the “ethical” choice.

And they seemed to have raped a lot of the female slaves that passed through their business. If you bought a woman from them, you likely bought their victim from them. The scale of their rape cult is just mind-boggling (can you have a three-person cult? I don’t know what other word to use here.) Franklin & Armfield sold about 1200 people a year. If half of them were women and they “only” raped half of those women, that’s still almost a rape for every day of the year. The very least you can say is that, if you fell into the clutches of Franklin & Armfield, you were going to witness a rape.

One place I read said that Franklin & Armfield controlled about 5% of the U.S. economy. A nickle of every dollar passed through their hands.

I don’t know.. I don’t know what I want to say, exactly, except for that we, here in Nashville, talk about slavery like the worst of it happened someplace else. And yet, if you want to see those Franklin & Armfield nickles up-close and personal, you can stroll around Belmont or drive to Suwanee.

The First Day Back, a Halftime Report

I have a little pain. I think in part just because I’m moving my right arm around a lot more than I have been. I also may have just a little PTSD about the wire in my boob experience, because my co-worker asked me how it went and I just both couldn’t talk about that part and couldn’t think of anything else to talk about.

I feel overwhelmed by how behind I am.

But oh well. I guess. Something about the whole thing makes me feel like I could use a real vacation, one where I go someplace other than my house and do something other than nothing.

Two Games?

I watched the Ray Rice video, the inside the elevator footage. It’s pretty amazing. She gets in one side of the elevator. He gets in the other. She’s clearly standing away from him. He reaches over to touch her, hit her, though possibly in a playful way–I mean, if the video ended there, you’d think it was playful. She turns to confront him, approaches him, and he knocks her out. Thus recontextualizing his initial contact with her as setting up his second hit better.

That you could watch that and give him two games off is mind-boggling.

That you could watch that and then watch his girlfriend apologizing for “her role” in the incident, when her role appears to be being unfortunate enough to run into his fist and give him two games off is horrific.

I hope he doesn’t someday kill her.

But the other thing I can’t wrap my head around is how there seemed to be this assumption that the video would never get out, that they could spin what happened in the elevator however they wanted, because no one would see it. And I get how that kind of shit happened even twenty years ago, but in this day and age?

In this day and age, can you really count on your misdeeds staying buried?

Chapter Three May Do Me In

Chapter Three is divided into three parts–the Harpes, John Murrell, and Isaac Franklin and John Armfield. Basically, if you ever cut open someone’s belly and dumped them in a creek, I have room for you in this chapter.

But Franklin is just such a sick fuck it’s kind of ruining the fun of the chapter for me. The research is just grueling. UNC has some of Franklin’s letters scanned in so that you can read them yourself without having to travel to North Carolina and, good god damn, it’s just so fucking… Like I was relieved when I couldn’t make things out, because his handwriting is so crappy.

And, on a more minor note, I swear, there’s no way to do even a tiny bit of research into John Murrell before you start to suspect he was framed. Not very well, but framed. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure he was a “thief of horses and negroes,” but to the extent people claimed he was? No, that was a frame-up job by a guy I think was a great deal scarier in his own way. No one can put a body count on Murrell, but his “biographer” leaves a trail.

Historians, Hear My Plea

So, I’m working on the third chapter, which is now called “In Which Quite a Few People Get Sliced along the Belly, Stuffed with Rocks, and Thrown in Creeks.” And the point I want to make is that, while Indians did attack Nashville and while the Harpes were really evil and really did bad things, we also can’t ignore that their stories all start to have a certain shape–and not just the Harpes, but on into John Murrell and Isaac Franklin and Nathan Bedford Forrest. I’m trying to trace a narrative trope across historical (and, in John Murrell’s case, semi-historical) events in order to make the argument that there’s this kind of “ur story” that Nashville loves, which goes something like this:

Out there in the woods are some scary-ass people. You could be just minding your business in your own home or walking along the road or out on vacation and you’re going to run into a small band of them. They’ll seem fine, if very different than you, but you go a little further and you’re in deep shit. More of them are going to appear. They’re going to attack you and your group. People are going to get raped, killed, and, likely, you’re going to be assaulted with a blade, stuffed with rocks, and tossed in a river (hence the title). If you luck out, you may escape and may have some sort of revenge.

How powerful is this story? Ask yourself this–how closely does the plot to Deliverance hew to it?

But is it cool? I feel like it is–that you can say, “Yes, these things really happened” and acknowledge that the way they got told, what elements were played up and which were played down, is to give the incident the right shape so that it fits a preferred and expected narrative structure. And that I can then trace that narrative structure a hundred years or so.

But some part nags at me that maybe it’s unfair to facts to do this to them.

An Evening of Movies

First, I watched Thale, which is short and sweet and amazing. Maybe it’s because I’m emotional and I have all kinds of feelings about my parents coming down and being genuinely helpful and tender, but I cried at the end. I guess this is supposed to kind of be a creepy movie, but it’s more like a beautiful fairytale. Yet again, well done, Scandinavia. (Though, fair warning, one of the main characters is named Elvis, which, I suspect, in Norway isn’t funny, but it kind of colored how I saw the character.)

Then I watched The Punk Singer, which is a documentary about Kathleen Hanna. It’s really, really good. I was too isolated to have been plugged into the whole Riot Grrrl thing as it was happening and I kind of thought that I knew nothing about Kathleen Hanna, so I was really pleasantly surprised to discover how many of her songs I knew and to see how influential her–and her peers–had been on me, three or four or a million ripples removed from the actual impact. I don’t really have a huge punk rock influence, but I do believe that this world sucks and that the only way to survive it in any meaningful way is to band together with like-minded people and to make and do things that matter to you. Art, to me, is the court jester’s fuck you to the human condition.

So, yeah, I really liked it. Though it’s impossible to watch and to not wonder what the fuck is wrong with Courtney Love (though she’s mentioned very, very briefly) which I guess is why Netflix then recommends Hit So Hard, the documentary about Hole’s drummer, Patty Schemel. It’s also really good, but it’s heavy and I can’t quite shake the feeling the documentary gave me. It’s weird to finish a movie about a band you love and end up feeling like you wish almost every one in it’s lives could have gone better.

The Day the Whistles Cried

This afternoon, I read Betsy Thorpe’s The Day the Whistles Cried, which is about the Dutchman’s Curve accident, which was the worst train accident in history. It’s a quick read and really interesting. It’s arranged kind of like an episode of Law & Order. The first half is all about figuring out what happened and the second half is a courtroom drama about who’s to blame.

I’m thinking a lot about how to write about history in a way that’s interesting for people who aren’t scholars, so I was paying special attention to how Thorpe handled it. She takes a narrative approach, where she’s telling you the best story she can based on the facts she knows. And she seems to have run down just about every fact a person can still get his or her hands on this many years after the fact. I cried. I found it really moving and effective.

I think she also does a really good job of bringing up a lot of issues that you need to know if you want to do more research into the accident without overwhelming you if you don’t care to know more than she shares with you. I mean, you come away with a pretty thorough understanding of how trains in the South were set up to be death traps for black people and how black people in Nashville were taking huge risks to get that changed. So, if you want to know more, you know there’s meat on that particular bone and can go look.

I want to say that Thorpe’s book is an excellent place to start, but I’m afraid it sounds like an insult and I really mean it as a compliment. I think her volume is the place you should start if you want to learn about it. For some folks, this book will definitely be enough–it’s very thorough–and for others, Thorpe’s laid out clear paths to other interesting topics.

Whew

I’m feeling so much better today. Even if I did get woken up at a quarter after 5 in the morning by a dog jumping and making “mrph mrph” noises at the back door. I appreciate his efforts to bark quietly, but they didn’t really work. The Butcher did not take him for a walk this morning, so he’s been moping around all day, waiting for the Butcher to return.

I have, too, because, when he gets here, I’m going to take a shower! And it is going to be awesome.

Anyway, because I was feeling so much better today and the dog hadn’t had a walk, I thought I would walk him around the yard. This was a mistake. Almost a falling-down mistake. But I made it back in the house, so that’s good.

I’ve been a reading fool and I got a piece on Sleepy John Estes written for October. My brain is so happy to be working again.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll work some on the Nashville book.

Maybe I Will Nap Today

I don’t feel like I’m in any pain, but man, I’m grouchy. Not just on my own behalf, but, if you need someone to write you a good “How fucking dare you?!” letter, I’m your writer.

I did set up my follow-up appointment, though, so I’m feeling semi-accomplished. I just can’t find anything in the paperwork about whether I’m supposed to leave this bandage on until then or encourage it to come off as it starts to curl. I turn to advice from you, Internet, because I am too grouchy to call my doctor.

No matter what time I go to bed, I keep waking up at 1:15 and then again at 5:30. Every night. I keep listening to hear if there’s a sound or something at that time, but it appears to be rather quiet.

I also resent the fuck out of having this much time off and just not being up for writing.

Oh, it just occurred to me that I’m waking up at 5:30 because the Butcher is taking the dog to the park.

Well, at least that much makes sense.

Day One of Being Alone

I read a book–Sara Harvey’s Music City, which made me cry. And I watched the dog sleep. And I decided that I’m just not up for doing an index on Project X. I still feel woozy and tired, but I’m trying really hard not to nap, because I’m tired of waking up in the middle of the night.

I’m bummed that my parents are gone. Which, yes, I know, is weird. But it was nice to be spoiled and nice to feel like just remaining alive was good enough for them. I just feel like we’re all so fragile.

You’d think that having a week off would be awesome, but the truth is that, since I don’t feel up for anything, it’s just kind of blah. I finished this book and now I kind of want to go to bed.

Yep, That Sucked

I have been unwell. So, I’m cold-turkey-ing the pain killers, in hopes that I will then be able to poop or throw up or both.

So far, there hasn’t been a lot of pain, more like just an intense feeling of “yep, your boob is right there.”

But I think I’m going to try to take a shower again today. Maybe wash my hair.

Unwise

I took a very brief shower yesterday. It was a mistake. So, I am never taking off this bra again. Seriously, I’m just going to live in it. I should have showered in it. Or had someone stand in the shower with me and just hold that boob all Janet Jackson style.

I feel like I’m off the pain scale in some way. Like I’m not in much actual pain, but the discomfort and the swelling are breaking my heart. I just want to feel like myself. Though definitely, showering with that boob having to even briefly support its own weight was like a 4 or 5 on the pain scale, which was alarming considering I’d been having almost no pain since the surgery.

So, in general, the painkillers keep the pain at a 0 or a 1, but on the just feeling weird and uncomfortable and not like myself scale, I’m sitting at a 5 all day.

But my house is crammed full of food. The Professor sent us a big box of ridiculousness that even included chocolate cakes and a note that made both me and my mom cry. And then C. showed up with a lasagna his wife made that was so huge that he wouldn’t let me lift it because he was fairly certain that the dish was over my weight limit. We ate it for dinner and it was ridiculously awesome.

I just feel bad for my parents because I need a lot of minor help–I have trouble getting up from places and the pain killers make me wobbly when I’m up and I can’t really hold coherent conversations and they’ve already mowed and mopped and trimmed trees. I’m sure it’s got to be boring as fuck for them.

But I’m glad they’re here.

It Was Fine (Gross Medical Things to Follow)

The worst part was the part at the Breast Center. They put a guide wire in my boob and, apparently, I still had a huge, deep bruise from the biopsy, because they all walked over to make … Let me back up. They put the wire in you boob by having you sit in a chair while they put you in the mammogram machine, so you can’t move or see anything happening. And they took my glasses off, so I really couldn’t see anything. So, they have me in the machine and they all go over to check and see if they like the placement of the wire and I’m like “Um, something is dripping on me.”

They’re all, “Yep. It should stop in a second.” The nurse starts walking back over to me. “It’s still dripping,” I say. And it was blood! From where they had to go through that bruise. They made me look at the ceiling while they put pressure on it.

It didn’t hurt or anything but it was weird, because the drips felt cool. I would have thought anything that came right out of me would have been warm, but I guess not.

Then they put me in a wheelchair and rolled me to the surgical prep. I will say that the brief time that wire was in my boob was the most horrible time of the whole day. They want you to take good deep breaths.  But every time I breathed out deeply, I could feel that fucker. And sometimes, like once every couple of minutes, it just hurt like hell. You aren’t aware of just how much you move, just a little, in any given moment until you’re trying to hold really, really still.  It felt kind of like the pain of maybe scraping a metal file against your teeth? it wasn’t the worst pain I’ve ever been in, but it was definitely among the most uncomfortable pains. And I think part of it was that it was not predictable.

The people in surgical prep were as awesome as the breast people. They had trouble finding a vein to put an IV in so I tried to get them excited about the prospect of having a journal article about a woman who lives to 40 with no veins. They laughed. The anesthesia staff was really good, too. They took a long time with me talking about my medicines and my previous history. They said I was a prime candidate for feeling nauseous after surgery because I’m a young woman in good health who doesn’t smoke. I offered to take up smoking real quick if they wanted to hold off on the surgery for an hour or so. They declined as then they’d have to fill out the paperwork about how they talked to me about the importance of quitting.

Then I went to sleep and I dreamed that I was still in surgical prep but that someone was going to bring me some Mexican rice in a minute and then I woke up and it was done. And it felt so good to have that wire out of my body that it took me a moment to realize that I did feel a little nauseous and a little in pain–which they promptly cleared up.

I’m not allowed to drive for a week or to lift anything over 15 pounds. My boob is pretty swollen and I have to wear a bra all the time. But I will say this–I wish I’d worn a bra all the time after the initial biopsy, because it was easier to sleep. I thought for sure I’d wake up at some point because the boob would shift and there’d be pain, but no.

Anyway, the pain meds are kicking in and I’m not sure I can remain coherent. Chatty, yes. Coherent, no.

Two Boots Pizza

I went there for lunch and it was fairly busy. There was only one guy in the place at one point. Otherwise, it was all women, just shooting the shit about how to season cast iron and whether you could make a fish have sex with a kernel of corn (obviously not).

It was strange, but nice.

A Whole Family of Crows Chattered and Flew on My Walk

The Butcher has a theory that my parents are much happier if, when they come to our house, they have things to complain about. In that spirit, I did the most half-assed job of cleaning the bathroom ever seen in the history of half-assed jobs of cleaning a bathroom. You’re not going to get MRSA in there, but the bathroom is totally traveling back through time and giving someone’s grandma shin splints.

I haven’t sent out any of my afghans yet, because I wanted to wait to show them to my mom. But it’s on my list of things to do.

I have an almost final version of Project X in my purse. Lindsey has found the most delightfully creepy fonts. I think. They’re not trying too hard to be creepy, but they are awesome.

And I sold a story! “Zilpha Murrell and the Third Harpe’s Head,” which is a story about the time the mother of the famous land pirate, John Murrell, had the little-known third brother of the infamous land pirates, the Harpe Brothers, in her whore house. One might assume that this third Harpe is actually Samuel Mason, somehow escaped from death, but I didn’t have that in mind when I wrote it.

I have two more stories about Harpes and their heads, so maybe someday I’ll sell those.

Anyway, I’m nervous as fuck, but feeling like things are happening, so somehow it’s less stressful. I have things to do this evening–eat a big meal, make sure my parents know what’s going on and when they need to be places, get everyone to sign the living will, take out my ten-thousand earrings, bathe in the special soap, show my mom my boob in its current state so that she can recognize what’s not right when she sees it again tomorrow. If anything.

I swear, the second they’re like “Stop taking all over-the-counter pain medications,” is the moment your head is like “But couldn’t we have a head-ache? Wouldn’t that be groovy?” But I will soldier on.

Sunny

It’s a beautiful day out. Not at all as unbearable as they made it sound like it was going to be. I had lunch with nm, who has the ability to listen to you flounder on about something and then say “So, it’s x?” and you’re like “Yes, god, that’s exactly it. X is indeed what’s going on.”

My parents arrive tomorrow. I suppose I should clean the bathroom. The evil, evil bathroom.

No, no, no, no, no, nope, no, not that either, that’s a thing? No, no, no, no

I spent my morning getting registered at the hospital. I’m apparently in pretty good shape for a woman my age, which is a weird fact to consider. But I was all “no, no, no, no” to all the questions. Have I had this? Have I had that?

They took blood and piss and gave me special soap. And the paperwork for a living will.

I’m now drinking a throwback Mountain Dew and it is delicious.

Richard Finnelson, Wait a Second

I spent the afternoon cleaning the house and rereading the two chapters–“Chapter 1: We Arrived and were Promptly Kidnapped” and “Chapter 2: The Battle of Buchanan’s Station or The Night We Unexpectedly Weren’t All Slaughtered in Our Beds”–and I’m pleased. It did mean spending a little more time rifling through the war papers devoted to the Indians. And I realized that I had fundamentally misunderstood something. I thought Richard Finnelson and Joseph Deraque were interviewed together here and that information was sent on to Governor Blount. Thus the stories that Finnelson and Deraque weren’t believed about the attack and offered to throw themselves in jail and that they then might have even fought at the battle.

But in rereading yesterday, I realized Governor Blount personally took Finnelson’s testimony. In Knoxville. And then he sent Finnelson to Philadelphia to talk to the War Secretary. I repeat, he sent Finnelson, an Indian, to the Capitol. Before the battle. Then they send Demonbreun after the battle with further updates.

So, in order of “Who can we trust with these papers and important testimony?” It went 1. Richard Finnelson and 2. Timothy Demonbreun. Trailing far behind appears to be our friend, Joseph Deraque. Granted, he did just spend all summer as a Spanish agent, but still.

The next chapter is about land pirates–the Harpes, Tom Mason, John Murrell and the Mystic Clan (and did I tell you this appears to be mostly made up?! Which is perfect for the book)–and Isaac Motherfucking Rape Cult Franklin, who resented being compared to land pirates, but when you’re slicing people along the belly, filling them full of rocks, and then throwing them in the swamp, what the hell kind of comparison do you expect people to make?

And yes, yesterday morning, I couldn’t even stand the thought of looking at it. I’m on a rollercoaster of emotions. And I’m ready to just be back to my normal self.