I Never Remember the Lesson

There are some mornings when I feel like I’d really rather be doing anything than going for a walk. And then I get to the hill and the exertion of trying to get up it seems to clear out all my cobwebs.

I want to be writing this Nashville book. But I’ve got to get some reading done first. Which means I have books I need to get from the library. I often stand in my own way.

The yarn from this last batch that I liked least when it was hanging on the hanger is turning out to be my favorite as it’s being worked into squares.

 

Found Her!

Some days, you park under a tree, walk clear to where you know all the Allens in the Gallatin cemetery are, fail to find Eliza Allen yet again, come back toward the car, and find the grave not twenty feet from where you’ve parked.

Elza Allen

Porch Yarn

The orange really is the best part. There’s a lot of green, but there’s a lot of green because there’s a lot of red. Which I think is kind of weird to give to a Jewish couple, since red and green make Christmas, but I tell you what, red also makes a hell of a lot of Kool-aid flavors, so, if you want to make it feel balanced, you need some green.

And the wool just smells to me like something holy. Still a lot of barnyard in it (not in a poopy way) and Kool-aid. It’s just really lovely.

Now it just needs to dry.

porch yarn

A Parade of Yellow

The dog was trying so hard to play it cool, like he and the cat just hang out all the time going for walks together, but the smear where his tail should be betrays his true feelings.

The dog was trying so hard to play it cool, like he and the cat just hang out all the time going for walks together, but the smear where his tail should be betrays his true feelings.

Yes, I am taking him for walks without the face thing. It was kind of a disaster today because there were a couple of joggers and they had to be thwarted through jumping (though not lunging, it was definitely just a display of “don’t fuck with us” not a “I’m about to make you sorry for fucking with us.”) and acting like a nincompoop.

No, I don’t know how I’ll be able to tell when he starts to go gray, because his face is already pretty white.

And we were late for breakfast, so the cat had to come find us, because he thinks I’m an idiot who can’t be trusted to find my way home.

A Wonder I Have about Sam Houston and Eliza Allen

I will never let go of the crotch wound, but I had another thought.

Houston’s mom had to be a bad-ass to survive what his father put the family through (debt-wise) and then her having to move the family to Tennessee after he died. Houston hooked up with the Cherokees at a young age, at a time when Cherokee women still had a lot of power (even though the structure of Cherokee society had been under a great deal of strain, to put it mildly, and Cherokee women did not have the same status they had even thirty years earlier). And we know his most successful marriage was to a woman who was very strong-willed.

We also know that, whatever happened between Sam and Eliza, as much as it pissed her family and town off, she didn’t seem that angry at him over it. So, what would gravely insult the Allens but not Eliza?

Here’s my hypothesis: Bless his heart, Sam did not know this was an arranged marriage and thought Eliza was marrying him because she loved him. When he found out otherwise, he let her go home, effectively ending the marriage. That’s what he found so humiliating about it that he left. Otherwise, why not just make her stay with him? Who at that time would have really given a shit if his wife didn’t immediately love him if the marriage was an alliance of powerful families? I don’t think it dawned on Houston that Eliza felt she had to marry him for her family’s sake. I don’t think he was intimately familiar with women who would demure to their father’s wishes so it didn’t dawn on him that’s what was going on.

This is my guess, anyway.

Koolaid Afghan Dilemmas

I ran out of white, so I did up a bunch of colored squares that I can add the white border to later and in doing them up, I discovered that not all of the Koolaid powder had come off the yarn.

So, I need to soak these squares–all 13 of them–in cold water and then set them out to dry someplace where the dog won’t eat them. I am unsure of where that is.

Changing Plans

Okay, I’ve talked this through with a couple of people whose opinions I respect and I’ve been doing a little preliminary diggings, just to assure myself that there are resources I could use and I think I’m going to do it–to write a history of Nashville. I feel like I need a unifying theme–something that lets me know what to leave in and what to leave out–which I do not have more than wanting to provide a moment for thinking about Nashville history in ways we don’t normally think of Nashville history. Maybe a history of everyone in Nashville who got metaphorically and sometimes literally kicked in the teeth.

I’m not thinking of something comprehensive. I’m really not capable of doing a comprehensive book, nor would I want to. I want to talk about the way we talk about Nashville’s history and the ways we could talk about it, if we just changed our focus. I think I could do that in 80,000-100,000 words.

I feel a little strange, though, about just setting aside the fiction shit long enough to do justice to this. Well, not completely set aside, but no longer let that be most of my extra-curricular writing. But it seems like this is the direction the muses point in and I have to see if I can do it.

Hobby Lobby

1. I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that I, as a woman, have fewer rights than a corporation. Every time I try to look at it head-on, I keep finding reasons why it’s not actually that bad. But it is that bad. I am not a full citizen of the United States. Me and Puerto Rico, we’re supposed to feel like we’re Americans but be okay with all the ways we’re constantly reminded that we’re not. I bring up Puerto Rico because my body is property, but not property I can fully own and control.

2. The things the Founders tried to rally against, their fear of overpowering governments. If only they could have imagined that corporations would become just as powerful and just as able to reach into our lives.

3. Mark Twain, in Life on the Mississippi, flat out explains how much freedom in the United States is about being able to force other people to do what you want without being in a position where other people can force you to do anything. We just don’t believe him most days because it feels so antithetical to what we’re taught freedom is.

4. The other thing is that this is bad for Christianity. It’s bad for denominations and Christians that don’t want any part of this but are now lumped in with “Christian” corporations. And it’s bad for Christians that are happy about this. If a person has no choice but to follow your religious edicts, you’re not actually convincing people of the rightness of Christianity. You’re not changing hearts. And, as our culture grows more secularized, if Christianity becomes so thoroughly linked with bizarre and oppressive beliefs about women and gay people and the rights of corporations to decide what kind of healthcare you get, Christianity is going to seem like a weird, scary cult, not like a rich, theological tradition.

 

If You Try Sometimes, You Just Might Find

Friday, at lunch, we went out for hot chicken and contemplated Elvis. I came up with an idea for October that makes me happy. After work, I went over to the Scene‘s party and saw people I hadn’t seen in a million years. Plus people I see pretty frequently, so that was nice. I had conversations that made me feel better about my writing life in general–”Yes, I know that feeling”–and in particular–”Don’t worry. Just wait it out.” People said nice things about my writing and were happy to see me.

A couple of people asked me about when I was going to write a book about Nashville history, but I just don’t think they understand the scope of the problem–I would like to, but I am utterly unqualified to write the book I think deserves to be written. I don’t know nearly enough about Nashville’s Native American history (and by nearly enough, I mean, I basically know that Native Americans lived here) and to really understand Nashville’s history, you obviously need to understand why the landscape looked the way it did when white people arrived here, which means understanding how people were using the area before white people got here. And I would want to go back all the way. I don’t want any 1,000 year old farms escaping notice.

I understand next to nothing about the history of black Nashville, though at least I’d have some idea how to go about rectifying this to my satisfaction. Still, I’m not sure my satisfaction is good enough. I’m not sure I even know what I don’t know.

The history of Hispanic Nashville has never been written. No one has properly contextualized Nashville’s current Hispanic population with our long relationship with Latin America from our dalliances with becoming a Spanish territory through to us inflicting William Walker on Nicaragua and our pipe dream of creating a vast Southern U.S. white guy-lead slave empire throughout Latin America. A few critics have made the argument that, due to the South’s slave-owning and our dream of conquering Latin America, we’re tied to the Caribbean in ways we don’t usually acknowledge. But looking at how we might  understand Nashville as just a far north outpost of a certain strand of Latin American history would, I think, go a long way to undermining a lot of these “what are they doing here?” narratives.  We see ourselves as historically provincial in order to pretend to be surprised to find ourselves at this place.

But another thing that stops me in my tracks is how to account for Nashville’s gay history? This is a place my shortcomings in knowledge of Nashville’s black history bring me up short. I know that there were gay clubs in Nashville at least as far back as the 50s that were located in areas considered black neighborhoods (though I think at least some of the clubs may have been informally integrated) and Alain Locke spent a year at Fisk in the 20s, I think. But figuring out Nashville’s gay history, especially in a climate where it’s still risky for people to talk about it, let alone to say what their grandparents may have been up to, would be tricky.

So, all this is not to say that I haven’t thought about it. I’ve thought about it extensively. I just don’t think I have the skills to write the kind of book I’d want to write.

And then we went and saw the Dave Rawlings Machine at the Ryman and it was fantastic. I really love the Ryman and I don’t know if it’s just because my butt is getting bigger or because I’ve built up callouses, but they played from just after 8 to just before 11 and I didn’t want to amputate my ass by the end of it. I did end up thinking a lot about how it is that I feel like I know that, when they sing a song like “He Will Set Your Fields on Fire” they aren’t sincere about believing in a God who’s going to burn your life down if you don’t follow him, but when they sing “I Hear Them All” and it bleeds into “This Land is Your Land,” I feel like that’s real. Is it because we’re all singing along sincerely? Or is there something else that signals “this song we just like” vs. “this song we mean”?

Anyway, even the guy behind me going on to his date nonstop with his “insight” into the band couldn’t ruin it for me (though, lord, I did laugh. I mean, everyone in town knows someone who knows someone. Unless his date has only been in town ten minutes, why would she be impressed at that? It doesn’t make you special that you know someone who knows Dave Rawlings. It makes you a Nashville resident.). I was completely smitten. It was lovely.

Puzzle

Getting rejected sucks. It does get easier. Thank goodness or else how could you keep sending things out? But it does suck. I think the difficult thing is that I assume there’s some trick, like if I can just get the words in the right combination, everyone will want it. So, if my story’s rejected, it must be because I have failed to puzzle over it enough.

Or I’m not a very good writer, but with one good fluke.

Or I just don’t know.

It’s kind of terribly funny, to feel so driven to do something I might never be good enough at. I mean, at least athletes know what the goal is. If you go out and shoot 30 free-throws and never hit the basket, you know, at some basic level, that something is wrong with your form or your eyesight or your talent, because, if things were working, the ball would go in.

But who even knows what the goal is here? Am I failing to hit baskets? Am I scoring, but they’re just looking for players with other strengths?

I don’t know. But onward, anyway.

All Heart, No Brains

So, I’m sitting here last night, watching the dog throw up what, at first, appears to be a great amount of ground beef and I am in a bit of a panic wondering where he would have encountered what looked to be two cups of ground beef in the house considering I can’t remember the last time we had ground beef in said house.

He looks sheepishly at it and then at me like “You’re not going to make me eat this again, are you?”

Of course not. His job is to eat the cat barf, not his own barf. (Kidding!) So I go to clean it up and I notice that this is the least gross-smelling barf in the history of barf. It might even be said to have a slightly pleasant fruity smell, like summers when you were a kid or church basements at the end of Vacation Bible School.

Slow motion. I turn back toward the couch. All I’m thinking is “God damn it, I sang you the song!*” because I realize that is Kool-aid dyed wool. My heart is sinking. I am feeling the despondency of a thousand Lydia Deetzes. My afghan is ruined. Eaten by the dog.

But wait, no, there are all the squares, just where they should be after you go to the effort of making up an instructive song and then singing it all Sunday afternoon to the dog.

And my eye wanders down to the garbage can next to the couch where I sit and the end table upon which the squares sit. And I notice that many items appear to have been removed from said garbage can and the big wad of ends that had been there is now missing. Well, not missing. It’s just in the paper towel in my hand.

The poor dog is looking up at me like “Why, god, why did you not warn me not to eat that?”

And I’m sure I was looking back at him with a similar look on my face.

But thank the gods that it was just wool and Kool-aid. Except for being wildly uncomfortable coming back up as a giant soggy felted mess, it’s non-toxic. And what didn’t come up will pass through him okay.

(I should have known something was wrong, though, earlier in the evening when the Butcher left to go watch the Vandy game and Sonnyboy didn’t get up to do his ritual of sadness at having been abandoned by the best dude ever, ever, ever.)

 

*The song:

Rufus, you cannot eat my squares.

Rufus, you cannot eat my squares.

I took a vote when I was on the boat, coming from over there.

Rufus you cannot eat my squares.

The Reason We Have Goals

I have nothing for October yet. My favorite month of the year and I haven’t come up with a plan. Emotionally, I really need some stuff to shake loose. I need Project X to move along or die so that I can try to sell it elsewhere. I need to approach more agents about Sue. I need to get some other things out for submission.

This morning I woke up with this thought in my head: “You can’t fart for someone else.” And I just assumed that it must be a hilarious, but little known aphorism. I can’t find it in Google, though. So, now I have this worry that my sleeping mind is coming up with all these words of wisdom and, because I’m asleep, most of them are not making it out into the world.

But, take that, dear readers. “You can’t fart for someone else.”

Dreams, I Have Dreams

I have three goals:

1. To have a short story published at Tor.com.

2. To have a book published by someone other than me, a someone prominent enough that I can go into my local bookstore and see my book on the shelf.

3. To be on a real panel at the Southern Festival of Books.

I balled up the second skein of yarn last night and made three squares with it. It’s marvelous. I hope I have enough yarn coming, though. I always fret about this, and I think we all know I will continue to through the whole afghan. I had planned on making it 10 squares by 14 squares, but I think I can cut it down to 10×12 if it looks like I’m going to run out of white. Anyway, here are the squares we have so far:

The first square.

The first square.

The second square

The second square

Brave

Today my hair is totally doing… I don’t even know what. It’s huge and curly and has, so far, been caught in the seatbelt, caught in the door, and had some leafy bits caught in it.

Thus leading me to wonder how the little girl in Brave manages to run around with loose hair on horseback and not have a brambly mess.

The More Things Stay The Same

I have a lot of things swirling in my brain that I wish I could nail down enough to talk about. I start to think that I’m an easy person not to know. Don’t get me wrong. I think I’m also an easy person to know and I’m very lucky to have dear friends.

But what I mean is that I have this defense mechanism that’s like, “Just don’t participate in this and it will be over as soon as possible and then you can get on with your day.” Whatever thing “it” is. Like, if I just emotionally stand very still, the disturbing things won’t be able to see me and they’ll pass me by. There’s “fight” and
“flight,” but I have “freeze.”

“Freeze” does not work out for me so well in many ways. But the main way it lets me down is, I think, that, since I’m attempting to not provoke people, I’m not giving off the same visual and audio clues they get from most people.

I don’t know. I just sometimes feel like I have no idea what’s going on in my own life because the people who are attempting to interact with me seem to have constructed some version of me that I can’t recognize.

My co-worker said to me the other day that she thinks people mistake my niceness for someone easy to roll over.

But the thing is that, in a way, I do feel easy to roll over. (Not in the instance we were talking about but not into the instances that are on my mind.) Like I’ve somehow made myself deliberately easy to roll over so that things I don’t want to deal with just roll on down the road away from me.

But, of course, people who roll over you, once they find out they can do it, keep coming back.

Little Things

–The Butcher listened to All Them Witches. He didn’t get it.

–I love the yarn for the Kool-aid afghan so much. It’s just exactly right.

–The enthusiasm with which the Red-Headed Kid was willing to sniff the square I gave him to see that it did, indeed, still smell like Kool-aid pleased m.

–Patrick’s down in Berry Hill now has the same pork sandwiches he had when he was in the purple house. Knowing that, how am I supposed to sit here and eat my paltry homemade lunch?

–My neighbor has a pop-up camper in his back yard. Ha ha ha. Dude, I would have given you ours for free if you’d asked.

–Toby is such a good barker. I’m going to be sad when the neighbor is done dogsitting.

–Oh, and I wrote this.

Things Change

When I was young, I made my mom take me to a talk Ken Kesey gave about, well, being Ken Kesey and doing the whole bus trip across America and I remember thinking that was the most amazing thing in the world.

This weekend, I watched a documentary about said trip and by the end of it, I was like “Has there ever been a more tedious group of people in the world?”

And then I was like, yes, I’m so very old.

Thoughts on the Kool-Aid Afghan Yarn

You can either think of it as dumping Kool-aid on wool or you can think of it as using powders to manipulate which light wavelengths reflect back to your viewer's eyes.

You can either think of it as dumping Kool-aid on wool or you can think of it as using powders to manipulate which light wavelengths reflect back to your viewer’s eyes.

The wool I found at Haus of Yarn is perfect. It’s very natural feeling and looking. It has a kind of homey vibe. It just seems like the kind of yarn someone would hand-dye in a very half-assed way. But they only had five skeins! But they will order me more. So, my goal for this weekend is to get the yarn dyed (check) and then work up some squares so that I know how many more skeins I need so that they can get them for me. I dyed four and left one natural because I want to do a border on each square, so that it doesn’t look exactly like the one I did for B. I’m only now trying to decide if I want all the same sized colored parts or different. See, each row of a typical granny square has three rounds. So, I could do some squares where the colored part is only the first round and the rest are white, some squares where the first two rounds were colored and the last is white and some where all squares are colored.

I’m leaning away from that, though, because I’m trying to strike a balance between the business of the variegation and my desire to not make the whole afghan seem too busy. I want it to be cheeky, not tacky. So, in order to pull that off, if it’s possible to pull that off with bright, fruity colors, I think the trick is to give a person’s eye a place to rest–the white space. And to give the eye some uniformity. You might encounter a lot of variation, but it will be in a regular, predictable pattern.

Ha ha ha. I probably worry too much about the aesthetics of something no one else experiences as an aesthetic object. But man, I really love to sit around an imagine how an afghan is going to look and then I love to see how it actually turns out. It brings me such pleasure every time I piece one together on my bed and am like, wow, damn, I really love this.

My dad asks me all the time about selling my shit, but it’s so ridiculous. I mean, for an afghan I make with just yarn you can get at Walmart, my materials expenses run me $50 and then, if I even paid myself minimum wage, it probably takes me sixty hours to put one together. And something like this–wool is a lot more expensive and the labor costs expand once dying is included. And the idea of charging people hundreds of dollars for afghans that I make? It just seems ludicrous.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. If some rich person came along and asked me to do them up a Kool-aid dyed afghan, I’d sit down and actually figure out what it was costing me and go ahead and charge them the $500 and think nothing of it. But I guess what weighs heavily on my mind is that our culture kind of values handmade things–especially handmade things that are made by women–as being some kind of frugal alternative to real things. You can have a real shirt, or your mom can sew you one. You can have a real blanket or I can crochet you one.

But those are only more inexpensive choices because our work is not taken into account.

And I guess my feeling is that I’d rather do this as a gift to people I care about and feel like we all got value out of it–me, because I got to see if I had predicted in my head a good form for the afghan to take, and the person who gets it, because they got a gift–than I would want to do it as something that needs to pay for itself, because I just don’t believe you can actually get paid what it’s worth. Even on Etsy, I don’t see an afghan for more than $200.

And, like I said, looking at the yarn they’re using, their materials costs are probably less than $50, so, if you never account for labor, $200 is a nice amount.

But it does make me feel, overall, like, if you’re not getting something out of it yourself, it’s not worth it.

Dream Afternoon

Taking Sam’s advice, I decided to try to do something audacious on my day off. Through a series of lucky confluences, I ended up getting a guided tour of the state museum’s art collection–both the stuff out on the walls and the stuff behind the scenes–guided, in fact, by the guy who collects the art for the state museum. It was amazing.

And I saw the Wessyngton exhibit, which is everything I could have hoped for. I was glad it wasn’t crowded, because it made me very emotional.

I also fucked up my ankle. But it’s okay, I think. I mean, I don’t think it’s broken or sprained. It just feels like, if you can bruise it throughout the joint, it’s bruised throughout the joint. It hurts to put pressure on it, but again, more like it hurts when you touch a bruise, not like when you’re stepping on a sprain.

Another Kool-Aid Afghan

I think a wedding is worth the effort. So, today, I need to track down blue, green, grape, and yellow Kool-aid, since I still have a ton of reds and oranges. Plus a trip to House of Yarn for wool yarn.

I tell you, I didn’t realize this Hachette/Amazon thing was having any effect on me, since I don’t buy a lot of books (me and the library, man), but when I thought about buying a whole afghan’s worth of wool yarn, the first thing that crossed my mind was “That much money could do a local shop good. I shouldn’t waste it at Amazon.”

So, there you go. I’m a hippie.

What gal doesn't want to sit next to a naked zombie? I love how she looks resigned and hopeful and he looks dead and gravely concerned.

What gal doesn’t want to sit next to a naked zombie? I love how she looks resigned and hopeful and he looks dead and gravely concerned. Heh, gravely concerned. (photo with permission from Starina Johnson)