Wedding Eve

Today we’ll be decorating the church and working out last minute details and welcoming family. I guess I’ll also clean the bathroom. Maybe vacuum.

I am happy and teary at the same time. I’m going to miss the shit out of the Butcher, but he’s also just up in Gallatin. I’m assuming. I guess there’s a 50/50 chance I’ll wake up on Monday and his whole small family will be crammed into his room here.

Ha, kidding!

I hope.

Family Time

I’m not saying that I’m feeling anxious about much of my family descending on Middle Tennessee for the wedding, but I dreamed that one of my cousins was running around the reception demanding we all weigh ourselves publicly so that we would all know our “health.”

I have been trying to reassure myself with a constant mantra of how awesome I am and then a listing of my accomplishments. But it doesn’t matter. I love my family, but they don’t give a shit. So, it’s not really a good defense. Am I still fat and ugly? Well, then, there you go. No one loves you, but us. And how could they, really?

The fucked up thing is that I’m not even sure how much that narrative comes from the outside and how much of it is internal, but triggered by the presence of my family. Like, I keep thinking of Jesse Walker’s The United States of Paranoia, which I know I talk about all the time, but it really has influenced my thinking on a lot of things.

Anyway, in the book, Walker talks about how conspiracy theories are self-reinforcing no matter what. “Evidence” such as it is proves the theory. The lack of “evidence” just proves that the conspiracy is wider than you realized and that they have allies to help hide shit. And it’s apparently nearly impossible to get someone to give up a conspiracy theory (if it’s going to happen, basically, it’s because belief in the conspiracy by the conspiracist becomes untenable for some reason that’s incredibly hard to predict and not usually sparked from the outside).

And the thing I’ve slowly come to realize is that, even if it is true, my conspiracy theory that I am fat, ugly, obnoxious, kind of suck at everything, and unlovable is just that–a conspiracy theory. I find evidence of it in the words and actions of my family. My belief in it is reinforced even when they’re nice to me, as if they’re being nice to me because my situation is so unfortunate. And like any good conspiracy theory, it has a great ability to withstand logic and evidence to the contrary. Others cannot talk me out of it or provide enough outside evidence to shake my belief.

And as much as I am starting to see intellectually what’s going on here, I’m still feeling hella anxious and worried about how the weekend is going to go. Whatever it’s going to take for me to find the belief in this conspiracy theory untenable in my bones hasn’t happened yet.

I don’t know. I don’t really have a point other than that understanding is not always cathartic. I understand my situation, but it hasn’t freed me from it.

If You’re Not Salty, What Are You Worth?

My parents always call me on Tuesdays, on their way home from dinner with my grandma. Last night, they wanted to talk about their friends who they’d seen recently and my dad was on a tear about how abusive–his word–they are to their daughters-in-law. “We all know [our ex-in-law], but I don’t blame her at all for [my brother] being a jackass. That’s his choice.” Which I thought was funny, but it also makes me sad. Why do my parents hang out with these people they think are terrible?

My cousin is still made that my other cousin came to her town and didn’t see her dad. The Butcher has done the same thing and that’s all right. But that’s probably not germane to my story. I think it’s been almost two years she’s been pissed about this. And I’m not saying I can’t hold a grudge. Y’all read me. You know how I am. But she’s not walking along all okay and then something brings it up and she’s pissed again. She’s actively still trying to litigate this and get people on her side and…like…whoa. It’s tedious and disturbing and sad. And she’s wrong, which also may be beside the point. But why is she still so actively engaged with being pissed? I suspect it’s not that my other cousin didn’t stop to see her dad. But that, unlike the Butcher, he didn’t stop to see her.

Third, I know a person who is well-respected in his profession and extremely well-respected in his hobby and who has incredible opportunities based on his hobby and, I mean, really cool shit. Radio interviews, displays at local museums, etc. And he’s still really hung up on whether or not these people he wants to respect him do. And based on some imagined slights he’s decided they do not and so everything he’s accomplished seems to not feel like a sufficient enough victory.

In all three cases, it seems to me that the people involved do not see their own worth. Don’t believe that they can have happiness and good friends or that their accomplishments count without the right validation.

And maybe this is myopic on my part, but I’m trying to learn to be happy. Which means finding a way to heal–and not just top off–the gaping hole in my soul that can’t be filled. So, I observe carefully the ways that hole tricks people into continuing to feed it.

Nice

It kind of feels like a time when things are coming together. The Butcher getting married. Me doing that talk, meeting internet friends, etc. Some folks are figuring out that I don’t just write for the Scene, but have another job.

I don’t know. Maybe those things don’t all fit together or suggest a trend, but they feel like it to me.

I guess the thing I’m continually wrestling with remains the same. How do I enjoy good things without being paralyzed by the fear that good things are just the things life throws at you so you’ll let your guard down for the bad shit? How do I integrate my feelings of success and accomplishment into who I am without becoming an obnoxious egotistical jerk?

Like, I’m glad to not have these feelings all the time of “you secretly suck and no one will tell you”–and I thank the medication for that–but I don’t want to swing so far the other way into “I rule, you drool.”

But I am enjoying feeling like I’m doing okay. If this is how most people feel all the time, I see why they like it.

The Peacock Pillow

peacock pillow

Except for whatever buttons will go along the top there, the peacock pillow is done! Well, peacock pillow case. I love using teal instead of olive on the outside of the motifs. It really lets the detail of the green row come through as the kind of decorative surprise I always wanted it to be. I’m not 100% in love with that gold, though. I can’t figure out why, because on the color wheel, it looks like it should work. Green compliments red. Blue compliments orange. So a really orange-gold gold like that one should be perfect.

But, and I’m no artist, so I’m not sure if I’m using the right terms but there’s a kind of richness to the dark blue and a richness to the teal and a richness to the gold that are all at the same level, while the silvery blue and the green have a kid of bright, sharpness to them. And I kind of feel like three rich colors on something this small feels clashing, even though clashing isn’t quite the right thing. Maybe it’s too many loud things? At the least, I wanted your eye to be drawn to that dark blue in the middle of the motif and I feel like my eye is drawn equally to the blue and gold.

I wonder if I could find a more green-gold and if I would like that better? Or maybe, ha ha, no one notices but me.

Am I Cool Enough?

There’s kind of a hierarchy of cool in Nashville. At a basic level, it starts with are you cool enough to be on the list to get into places free instead of having to pay? But then, once you’re in, do people recognize you? Are they happy to see that you’re there? And maybe some folks see you and acknowledge you, but are you cool enough to get the good seats? The special treatment? Etc.

I’m not very good at figuring out where in the cool hierarchy I am and there’s nothing more embarrassing than thinking you’re at a higher level than you are and having to find out in public that you’re not. So, I usually go for the cool that is “The list? Pshaw. I paid my way in.” Like I’m too cool for cool. Though I once ended up on a list twice and, I admit, that delighted the shit out of me.

But sometimes shit’s expensive and you just have to try to use your cool cred. So, I was kind of laughing this week because an internet friend is coming to town and she has what would be considered a cool job in nerdy circles.

So, I asked a friend who works at an expensive place people like to visit if he could comp us tickets. I told him who she was and he knew her. So, he tried to push me off on the people in his organization who would be more appropriate for dealing with her, since they would probably want to make contact with her, maybe show us around themselves.

So, the more appropriate contact got a hold of me and told me that the tickets would be there for me. Have fun. No personalized tour. They didn’t need to meet her. In other words, exactly what my friend could have done for me.

Among these young whippersnappers, we did not have the cool cred my friend assumed we had! That made me laugh. But I was also relieved, because I like being the tour guide and this way I can point and sing and tell stories myself without the facts getting in the way. Ha.

Still, I admit, sometimes it’s nice to be cool.

The Problem of Redemption

I told you all how much it shook me to learn that my dad had let me spend a lot of time with a man he knew did bad things to women, without telling me.

I left out the part that this is the second time this has happened, that I know of. One of my dad’s best friends was accused of some kind of inappropriate sexual conduct by his niece. I think, though he doesn’t want to, my dad believes her, because he’s apparently always thought this friend was squirrelly with kids. And my dad sometimes seems to carry a tremendous amount of worry/guilt that this friend may have done likewise to us. As far as I know, he never did. But my dad claims to have always had these worries AND he let us hang out alone with this friend.

And, like, I suspect there’s a lot going on here that I don’t know about. And Christ, I do not want to know about it, like I wish I didn’t know about my grandfather trying to force my dad to shoot him. Like, these are profoundly damaged people whose rage and grief is a monster loose to damage others. My dad believes he is all in, that he would do anything for his kids (and, hell, he has tried in many cases), but there’s a way in which he gets to a certain point–a point where you really need him because he has knowledge you don’t–and he just can’t do it.

I have been wondering a lot about this. And I think it’s just a perfect storm of his own shortcomings and his theology.

How can a person be redeemed if he is not allowed to prove that he is not longer the man he was? And how can he prove that he’s no longer the man he was, if he’s not allowed to show that, under the same circumstances where he used to be bad, he no longer is?

The reason I think this is a deep theological problem, as well as just my dad’s own bullshit, is that I see other ministers doing it. And I don’t see a way around it, if you’re a Christian. If you believe in the transformative power of Christ and especially if you’re Christian clergy, how do you not give God the opportunity to work on people, even very bad people?

But it means choosing to put others in harm’s way for the sake of the redemption story of the person who would harm them, believing that God is going to keep those potential victims safe.

I can’t bear it anymore, being put in harm’s way for the redemption narrative of bad men, being a hurdle or a temptation in the way of their being good men. Without my consent. Without even my knowledge.

Every once in a while I think of how easy it would be to slip back into Christianity. I live in a really Christian culture. My dad is a minister. I like the familiar rhythms of the liturgical calendar. There’s enough satisfying mystery, enough mysticism. I don’t think I could ever be a monotheist again, but I could fake it well enough.

And then there’s shit like this and I just can’t even consider it. I mean, I, too, hope people can change. But I wouldn’t offer up any kid I know to find out. And I resent, so deeply, having been offered up.

The argument I always hear, too, is that this isn’t God, this isn’t really what Christianity is about, but, you know, that shit starts to sound like people defending an abuser after a while. Oh, okay, God didn’t really mean it. He’s a nice Guy, if you get to know him. Sure, some of his friends are dicks, but He’s not like them, even though He hangs with them all the time.

I can’t do it. Maybe it’s a personal failing. Maybe it means Hell forever for me. But I can’t pretend I don’t see how this works. Redemption comes at the expense of people like me, and the choice to use us in this way is often kept from us. Christianity is supposed to be in opposition to human sacrifice, but I don’t have a good way of understanding what happened to me other than that I have been put in the labyrinth with the minotaur and not even told there was a monster in the maze and I just don’t see much of a difference between what the Church did to me and what happened to the Athenian girls.

I mean, I’m not dead yet, but then, I’m also clearly not out of the maze.

 

 

Old

I want to grow old like Robert Plant or Patrick Stewart, or like the little old ladies you sometimes find at the smaller house museums. I want to be able to still be delighted. I want to always be curious. I want to always have a dog.

We Have to Legalize Pot and Require Old People to Smoke It

Yesterday I went to the retinologist for my yearly check-up (I am stable and my retinas look slightly better even, though nothing to write home about.) which meant sitting in two waiting rooms with elderly people.

It was alarming. First, they were sitting around talking about how wonderful Trump is and how he’s not a career politician and disparaging politicians who were. Then an old guy told another old guy how he’d missed out on Vietnam due to a terrible car accident caused by his own recklessness. A woman kept interrupting the conversation because she was convinced the accident having old guy was talking to her and she would get pissed and embarrassed when he said he wasn’t. Then more talk about how glorious Trump is.

Then the old ‘I missed Vietnam due to an accident’ guy got called back and as soon as he was out of earshot, they switched to complaining about how anyone could possibly have the time to go to the Trump rally tomorrow and, if they weren’t so busy, they’d be down there handing out job applications to people. And at first I thought they meant the protesters, but no! No, the removal of the biggest Trump supporter allowed them to change their conversation from “fuck the people who don’t like Trump” to “fuck the people who like Trump enough to go see him.” But the exact same snide tone.

And then they launched into complaining about kids today which lead to a conversation about how kids are ruined by third grade. THIRD GRADE! I mean, I’m sure there are some dick third graders out there. I’m not discounting that. But they meant the whole lot. And I can’t help but guess that third grade must be about the time that kids start to get wary of this meanness in these old people.

My dad and I had a conversation recently about Fox News because my dad is really disturbed by how much his friends are affected by it. He said it’s not even that they watch it that bugs him. Like, if they were devoted fans of some show on there the way that he’s a fan of Jeopardy and tries to make time to watch it every day, that wouldn’t concern him. It’s that they leave it on all day, so even when they’re not actively watching it, it’s the noise in the background.

I thought of that yesterday because that’s what struck me listening to these old folks–not the content of what they were saying, though that was weird and alarming (I mean what kind of weird cognitive space do you have to be in to flow right from Hurray Trump! to Fuck those Trump Supporters?), but how, even if you didn’t listen specifically to what they were saying, there was that sharp, snide tone. The same one you would pick up on if you had Fox News on in the background all day.

We spend a lot of time alarmed at how much TV time kids have, but I think my dad is right. Old folks could benefit from turning off the TV and going outside or reading a book or listening to music or, hell, even turning the TV back on but watching something they enjoy instead of something that feeds their worst impulses.

Closer

We made some wedding decorations on Saturday. I got to see the dress and it is lovely.

Can I tell you something shitty, though? My parents are giving the Butcher a thousand dollars to help with the wedding. They gave a thousand dollars to my nephew to help with his wedding. The thousand dollars they gave me when my ceiling collapsed I had to pay back.

Our other brother now makes pretty much the same amount as me. I think my parents are still paying for his car insurance and I know they are paying for car repairs whenever he needs them. And I know he has the kids. But I’ve had the Butcher and crushing debt. Also, I don’t want their money, because I don’t want them in my business that much. Also, it’s their money. They can do with it what they want.

And yet, I’m still kind of pissed. It’s not that I want it or that I want my brothers not to have it. It’s just that we had really lean times where that kind of money could have helped me keep us afloat.

I guess what pisses me off is that I remember sitting in the back seat of the car on the way home from my dad’s parents listening to my dad complain about how, in his family, the person willing to cry “I’m sick” or “I’m needy” got the most attention, whether they were the sickest or neediest person.

And my parents have helped me with stuff. It’s not like the boys get everything and I get nothing.

I think what bugs me is the knowledge that seeing something and strongly disliking it is not enough to stop you from doing it.

And I also wonder why my dad tells me he does this stuff. I know my complaining about him all the time can make him sound like a constant jerk, so the answer might seem obvious–that he does it to hurt my feelings. But that’s not really how my dad works. He wants to see himself as a good person. The hurtful things he does are things he can justify as being for my own good.

So, no, more worrisome to me is that he’s trying to demonstrate the kinds of things he does for the family so that I will know, when he’s gone, that these are the kinds of things I should be doing.

In which case, he’s going to have a very unhappy afterlife.

What is Happening to Me?!

I’m making a peacock pillow for a friend–the peacock motifs from the afghan but put together in a pillow. And, dear readers, I am enjoying tucking the ends. I’m finding it soothing.

Me. End tucking. Enjoyment.

Is there a way to check and see if you’ve become a pod person?

Last night, it struck me that I’m about to have the whole house to myself. It seemed ludicrous and marvelous. I know it will also feel sad and weird at some point. Even now, I’m finding it disconcerting that the wedding is happening and so far all I’m doing is bringing gummy things to a bachelorette party and listening to my dad as he tries to figure out how to fly my nephew here.

But even that is also really nice. This isn’t my problem. And not my responsibility. I have nothing to do but show up. And possibly clean my bathroom.

Another weird thing is that I’ve had coffee or lunch with vendors twice over the last couple weeks–one coffee, one lunch–and both of them went on, for a long time. Like… well… I don’t think that I got tremendously better looking in the last 14 days, but maybe it’s my sparkling wit? I don’t know. It was nice. These strangers were enjoying hanging out with me.

Maybe this still is what I was trying to wrestle with yesterday. Things right now are good. I am happy. I’ve done some things these past few years that I’m really proud of and they’ve paid off in big and interesting ways.

But I don’t know how to experience happiness and satisfaction as anything other than a trap–either the bait that lures you into complacency so that life can kick you upside the head or the hubris that then causes you to run around being an unbearable jackass who no one likes.

Unhappiness, as I have been taught, is the mechanism by which the Universe keeps you from utter misery and bearable to other people.

In my mind, I know that’s a lie. You can foster an atmosphere of pleasant fortune around you. But convincing my heart? That’s an ongoing process.

A Rogan Has Found Me

After the good response I got to my talk on Saturday, I wrote up some of my findings on the Rogans for Pith, leaving out the parts that would specifically point to places I thought Bud Rogan might be, because, like I said in my presentation, I’m curious, but if the Rogans went to these lengths to keep white curiosity-seekers from bothering Bud, then I feel obliged to respect that at some level. I mean, I’m still curious, but I’m not going to make it too easy for nefarious people to start digging.

And anyway, as you all know, in my digging, I became as fascinated by this large extended family who found a way to take care of each other under extraordinary pressures designed to break them apart.

So, the post went up and yesterday a Rogan contacted me! I went digging through his Facebook stuff and I know you can’t say for sure, because the human mind finds patterns where there aren’t any, but I thought some of the living Rogans still resembled Bud. And I laughed to find that they are still very religious.

I mean, really, it’s not been that long. My grandma’s birthday was yesterday. She turned 96. Two of her grandparents were born before the Civil War. Of course behavioral patterns deeply ingrained in your family, especially through trauma, can persist.

But I think it still surprises me because, much like discovering that old wooden church in the cemetery, it moves facts from something you’ve been reading up on to something real in the world. “The Rogans’ faith was important to them” as a fact you can use to track them down in cemeteries and “The Rogans’ faith is important to them” as a fact you can see in a person…well, they are the same thing, but they don’t feel like the same thing.

I do this history stuff for me, because I find it fascinating. But this past month has been a weird and lovely display of things I wrote about having an impact in the world. Fred Douglas Park is getting corrected to Frederick Douglass Park. Some Rogans read my piece and, maybe, got a lead on an ancestor or two they didn’t have before.

That is awesome. I also, though, feel like it’s something I need to be mindful of. It would be so easy to pat myself on the back for my awesomeness and gloat around and just come to think that I can do no wrong. Positive feedback is a heady drug.

But I want to be mindful and humble to the work. I want to always have in the forefront of my mind that I can and will be wrong.

I want enough self-assuredness and confidence that I can do the work I like to do without crippling anxiety.

But I want to not get too confident in my own awesomeness. I don’t want to start lying to myself. I want a clear head to do good work, to tell the truth as I’ve found it.

The Dog Has a Minor Existential Crisis

My neighbor has thrown some stale bread in his back yard. Maybe English muffins, maybe hamburger buns. I haven’t gotten a close enough look to tell. But last night, Sonnyboy went over into the neighbor’s yard to eat one and I called him and he came right back, stale bread in mouth.

Y’all. I let him eat the bread because I was so happy he came when he was called. I don’t know. Maybe it was the wrong thing to do, but I want him to come when he’s called and if I call him over just to steal his bread from him, why would he come?

Anyway, so this morning, he’s out the back door like a shot and over to the neighbor’s yard and he quickly eats a little something and then comes bounding right back over to go on our walk. We get clear out to the far back yard and he starts making these big circles, like he kind of wants to go back and check the neighbor’s yard again.

I’m all “Come on buddy, let’s go for a walk!” over and over, but no, eventually he stops looping and just runs back and gets himself another stale muffin/roll. But he was so torn! He wanted to do the right thing but he also really wanted that bread.

And I have to say, it made me really happy, the way he hesitated and kind of couldn’t decide whether to behave or go back for more. Not because I’m thrilled he disobeyed me, but because, come on! When in the past wouldn’t that dog have disobeyed me for food? And, in the past he would have done it without hesitation.

But here! Now! Today! He had an internal conflict between doing what’s right and doing what he wanted. And, yes, he picked “doing what he wanted,” but what’s right got in there to make an argument! He had an internal conflict! He made a choice!

Sometimes I wonder if I’m reading too much into it, but I don’t think I am. This dog was dumb as rocks when we got him. And as much as I believe he’s benefiting from being loved and cared for, he could have lived out his days being dumb and sweet. I genuinely think this is about the thyroid medication. In humans, brain fog is a symptom of a thyroid problem, and my god, I think this dog had that symptom. And how would you diagnose brain fog in a dog? It’s only by watching him slowly transform into a dog who has thoughts once the fog has cleared.

Filling Out Forms

I had to fill out a bunch of forms for the therapist and I found it really interesting. Like, on the one hand, I’m all “Oh, man, my problems could be so much worse.”

On the other hand, there were some questions where I was like “Oh, yeah, this is me. Is this really a problem? Does everyone not do this to some extent?” It made me feel like I might have benefited from some screening decades ago.

Which, also, is slightly embarrassing.

I just hope this helps.

Last night I dreamed that the contacts I’d crocheted myself were scratchy and dried my eyes out and I didn’t like them. And when I took them out, they were huge! Like, no wonder they didn’t work.

But I do like that, in my dreams, I am fairly competent and can just make things I need.

Writing

I have informally given myself a goal of writing one short story a month. It’s not going that great. Ha. It’s also not going that bad. I mean, I should have two stories and the start of another and that is, indeed, what I have.

But the one that is just started was my February story.

I don’t know what will come of these, if anything. They’re very personal in a way that makes me uncomfortable but also, I think, compelling. So, I don’t know. I have stories I’m already shopping around and I never know if it makes sense to put new ones in the pipeline or wait and see if the old ones are going to clear out.

I’m also annoyed and confused about what to do about a piece that I sent to a market I was not familiar with–I mean, I’ve read it, but I don’t know anything about the folks on the back end–and I haven’t heard back from them, yeah or naw, way, way over the amount of time Duotrope says people usually hear from them.

So, I sent them an email just to ask if they were still considering it or if I’d missed the rejection. That was three weeks ago. I’ve heard nothing.

I’m not sure what to do next. Let it play out a little longer? Withdraw the piece? I just want to know if I should be doing something else with the story or if I should just keep waiting.

The Presentation

I think the presentation went well. I had too many census records that were too hard to see, but people gasped where I was hoping they’d gasp and they asked such good questions. I think it worked out that I didn’t come up with an answer for where Bud Rogan was buried, because I at least was able to share why and how I failed to come up with an answer and how I’d go about finding an answer, if I were going to.

And then I said that I wasn’t going to because, without the permission of the Rogan family to dig further (hee) into Bud’s burial place, I’d just be what they feared from the time he died–a white person more concerned about finding the body than letting him rest in peace.

There were a handful of TSU faculty there and I said what I normally say, that I consider myself a history buff as opposed to a historian, because historians do stuff that regular people can’t do, but my goal is to do history, publicly, in a way that shows other non-historians that they, too, can do this. That’s why it’s important for me to be wrong sometimes and follow-up sometimes and change my mind about things.

But then afterwards one of the TSU people came up to me and said that I was a historian, not a history buff, because I corroborate my theories and try to be clear when something is just a guess and when I know it. And I have to admit, that felt really nice.

I also had a nice lunch with a historian I admire and she told me that she’s notice that the tour at Belmont has changed since my Isaac Franklin piece and she thought that was directly attributable to my piece.

And I have to tell you, this is a nice but weird turn of events. I’m used to the reactions I learn about to my pieces being negative. It’s weird and nice to think I might be doing something that matters.

 

Nerves

–I made my therapist’s appointment. I even set up my portal. I have not called back to say I’ve set up my portal. I swear, every minute of dealing with this is just me having to make myself do things. I will just turn right away from things I find unpleasant or stressful.

And am I stressed? I had a dream last night that, when I got to the therapist’s office, I discovered that they needed $9,100 up front because they were tired of dicking around with Aetna and then I lost my credit card. And also had to go to work for the therapist.

–I’m nervous about my presentation tomorrow. I’m going in talking about something I haven’t solved yet. I think that’s the right approach. They want to hear about my process of discovering things and here I am in mid-process on this Rogan stuff, so it seems like talking about the Rogans is the thing to do. But it feels weird to not be able to say “Ta-da! Here’s the answer.”

–We watched Shoot Em Up the other night and I can’t stop thinking about it. I somehow feel better and worse for having watched it. I was trying to explain it to my coworkers–so there’s this dude and he ends up with a baby and he runs around shooting things with the baby and somehow he can’t afford ammunition but he can afford a robot baby and then the baby’s in a tank and he shoots a guy with his bare hands–because I want everyone in the world to watch this movie and then tell me how it exists.

Like, I get that it’s a send-up of action movies, but I am confused about how a thing can feel both so much like a parody and completely unpredictable. Like you both know and don’t know what’s going to happen in every single minute.

Plus, the main character and his prostitute girlfriend have sex throughout at gun battle. And I have to tell you, I kind of assumed that being shot at would end a sexual encounter. It made me feel like I’ve been asking the wrong questions of penises all these years because I kind of thought that when in mortal terror a penis was either in retreat or, if still hard, hard because of terror. It just never occurred to me that it might still be “Hey, dude, you worry about escaping. I’m going to keep going in here.”

Now I wish there were some way to rope in cocktapusses, to bring this discussion back to important matters. Okay, then, tell me in the comments below–if a cocktapus were caught mid-coitus in a gun battle, how many cocks would shrivel, how many would stay erect but only in terror, and how many wouldn’t let a little thing like getting shot at by a room full of bad guys ruin the vibe?

1900

In preparing for my talk on Saturday, I’ve been trying to make sure I have all the facts available to me on Bud Rogan nailed down. He died in 1905, but he’s not in the 1900 census. I’ve searched for every black male Rogan. I’ve searched for every black male named Bud, John, Will, William, or any variation, who doesn’t have a wife and he’s just not there.

So, I’ve been asking myself–where is he in 1900? This morning, when I was walking the dog, I thought of something: the story is that his family buried him in concrete to prevent “scientists” from stealing his body. I hadn’t thought much of the “scientists” part. After all, where were you going to run into “scientists” in Gallatin?

But doctors? And we know Bud had experience with doctors. Or at least with one doctor–William Lackey, who published a paper based on his examinations of Bud. And Lackey’s dentist buddy, Ernest Hickman. We know Bud’s condition caused him a lot of discomfort.

I wonder if he wasn’t in the hospital during the census in 1900? It seems like they must have had a way to account for patients, but if Lackey and/or Hickman had him stashed away someplace, maybe not? I mean, this is a part of how racism works that I’m just not sure how it would have played out. It’s hard to oversell how important Lackey was in Gallatin later on in his career. But he first examined Bud when he was young, still in med school.

Surely, Gallatin had some kind of hospital for black people. But that hospital probably wouldn’t have had state-of-the-art equipment. Not that the white hospital in Gallatin would have, either, but it would have been better than whatever was available to black people.

Would Lackey have been able to get into the black hospital? I think so. But if John were in the black hospital, again, it seems like there’d be some way to account for him in the census.

But here’s a guy who’s condition could make your career, if you’re Lackey. And there’s a hospital with better equipment right in town. Except that your patient isn’t allowed in that hospital so his presence in or near said hospital would have to be hidden…

I don’t know. Obviously, I’m reading a lot into a man’s absence from the census. But I don’t think his run in with Lackey was entirely pleasant or else why would his family work so hard to keep someone like Lackey from getting his body?

A Secret History of Memphis Hoodoo

Y’all, I’m not saying it’s been a strange year, but it’s been a strange year. This is the first book on non-poetry I’ve read since…Oh, I don’t know. Months. It’s been months.

But diving in to Tony Kail’s A Secret History of Memphis Hoodoo was a good way to break my losing streak.

I enjoyed it a lot, both because I learned some stuff I didn’t know and I had quibbles with the stuff I did know. Like, I don’t think Kail is wrong; I’d just like to argue with him about stuff anyway–that kind of quibbling. Some stretches I thought he was making that I wouldn’t have made–like bringing the old Robert Johnson bullshit into it.

I think if you don’t know anything about hoodoo and are curious about it and Memphis’s role, this is a fantastic introduction. I think if you know some stuff about hoodoo, you’re going to be a little frustrated. His history of Memphis factories involved in the production of hoodoo is great, but I wish there’d been more about how hoodoo ideas were transmitted in the days before the internet. His work on the Spiritual churches and their conventions is a great example of showing how people come together and exchange ideas.

I wanted to know if we have any guesses about how that transpired in the 19th century. I mean, some of it is really mysterious. We don’t know for sure what the little metal hands mean, though we find them at the Hermitage and outside of Memphis. They certainly look manufactured and I wonder if anyone’s ever tried to track down where. I assume they have, but I don’t know. And how did they get into the slave economy as far apart as Nashville and Memphis? Is there someone we can track? Or a slave-trading pattern we can contemplate?

It does seem obvious that Memphis conjure is informed by New Orleans conjure (and possibly visa versa) but I would have liked some informed guesses as to how that worked, too. Were steamboat workers bringing this stuff up and down the river? Like what was the mechanism for refreshing standard beliefs?

The same goes for the idea that hoodoo practices and Native American practices greatly overlap. How would this have happened? Are we talking that black people, when they were kidnapped by Indians, were being taught traditional healing methods? Are we saying that there were enough communities where black and Indians lived freely together that there could be these information exchanges?

I’m not trying to insinuate that I doubt these things. I don’t. These are things that obviously happened, but that I’m still not clear on how. I mean, before 1865, it was very hard for most black people to travel very far in the South. And Memphis and New Orleans are very far apart. Also, after Jackson, the South wasn’t brimming with Native Americans.

So, how were these connections being made?

I guess what I’m saying is that this book is very, very good for what it is, but also that I was hoping for something a little more than just an introduction.

New Things

The Butcher’s wedding looms. They’re trying to do a low-key thing, like afternoon wedding with cake and punch afterwards. It’s like they’ve never met our family, which should make the wedding super awkward, with all these opinionated strangers standing around.

I told the kids this weekend that I was going to be their step-aunt. They were more excited about having step-cats. Which, you know, fair enough.

I’m really happy for the Butcher and kind of excited to have the house to myself. And I’m sure it will also be lonely, but man, the dryer will be empty whenever I go to use it.

I think I’m going to win the cat argument, but it’s kind of a bummer because I think the reason I’m going to win it is that it’s sinking in to the Butcher how old the cat is. He didn’t get up to walk with us this morning and didn’t get up to get breakfast. He’s still asleep in the Butcher’s room as we speak.

Oh, god, I hope he’s not dead. Ha ha. I mean, I’m sure the Butcher checked before he left.

Adventure!

Next weekend, I’m giving a presentation about how I go digging for interesting history stuff. So, I spent this weekend looking for interesting history stuff. Basically, I was trying to figure out if I could figure out where Bud Rogan was buried.

In order to do that, I ended up learning a lot about his family and some about the other black Rogans in Sumner county who came off the Rogan plantation. All of slave-owner Francis Rogan’s white sons fought for the Confederacy. One died. In 1860, Francis had 75 slaves. Seven Rogans joined the Union army. A tenth of his captives. One of them also died.

A couple of Rogans played professional baseball back in the day, men whose families trace back to the Rogan plantation.

And I learned that anywhere Titus Rogan–Bud’s uncle–was there was going to be a Baptist church. The Rogans, in general, seemed to be very religious and even now there are a number of Rogans in the ministry, but Titus, man, you found him in the census, you found a church with active Rogan support nearby.

The other thing that I found really amazing is that the Rogans formed a community out there in rural Sumner County that was bigger than the plantation, Rogana. Cragfont, the Winchester home, was south of Rogana. The Parkers were east of Rogana and a branch of the Franklins were west (hilarious trivia–these Franklins had a kid with the middle name of Armfield and another kid named Nathan Bedford Franklin, because, I guess, why not embrace the family business whole-heartedly?).

And when you look at records for the Rogans, what names come up? Parker, Winchester, Franklin. These families, from adjoining plantations, moved together and built communities together after slavery. A Rogan who knows a Parker today has a friendship based on two hundred years of relationships.

When you consider how much time and energy enslavers devoted to severing those kinds of ties, it’s really incredible. And it’s something I’d like to know more about.

Anyway, here’s a church I found that sprung up near a road Titus Rogan lived on. The congregation goes back to 1865, supposedly. I can’t speak for this building, but it’s obviously pretty old.

Leap

Today the dog leaped over the creek after treeing a cat. I was struck by his graceful confidence, which, though I love this dog, seems a confidence wholly unearned. He made it fine, though.

On Twitter, I saw a person recounting a story of her elderly grandmother’s surprisingly progressive response to a relative’s life situation, the whole family, really, way back in the early 1900s.

I didn’t quite believe the story. It seems a little too perfectly aligned with our politics today and less so with what I know of the politics of the time. On the other hand, who knows? The world is a big place and people have been surprising in it a long time.

But then someone jumped down the storyteller’s throat about how the terminology the grandmother had used in the story–remember, a story recounted as having happened in the early 1900s–was hurtful.

Which, I have to say, is pretty damn likely, being as it was the early 1900s.

And then the storyteller apologized and said she had made a mistake trying to cram the whole story into 140 characters and the grandmother had actually said the thing we would say now.

And then I knew the story was bullshit. But no one else seems to. They’re all just pleased about the apology.

Or maybe it doesn’t matter that the story is bullshit?

I don’t know. I have a hard time knowing if things I remember are real–partially because I think I do genuinely have a shitty memory and partially because I have been trained since childhood to believe that there is always some generous way to interpret a situation that will explain the behavior of assholes, so I have always found my own memories and feelings about things suspect. But that’s why I want to know things, true things. I want to see for myself things I can count on. Even if they’re painful or imperfect.

So, I can’t understand this other impulse to have a story–passed off as true–that probably isn’t true, but tells us that how things are now is how they always have been, we’ve just been denying it.

Senor Don Gato

This cat, the one who fashions himself as a four-legged Clint Eastwood, is driving me crazy. For some reason, he’s put himself in competition with the dog. If the dog gets head scratches, he needs head scratches. If you’re eating something and he thinks you might let the dog lick your plate, he’s going to need to lick your plate first. Are you trying to do anything the dog can see? The orange cat will need to sit in your lap then. Last weekend I sang a song to the dog and the cat harassed me for like twenty minutes before I figured out that he expected a song, too.

I don’t even think he likes this shit. It doesn’t seem to improve his mood. I think he just wants what the dog gets and so, if he gets it, that’s good enough for him.

But the worst part is that, at breakfast, he really wants to lick the last of the milk out of your cereal bowl and so he sits right up next to you, not quite touching, but close enough that no dog can butt in, and rests the very tips of his whiskers on your arm, as if to monitor the situation for any changes in arm motion that might indicate you are done with your cereal.

It feels like a army of Daddy-long-legs standing on my arm. It’s so weird.

 

Stings

Y’all, some Redditor thought my willapus wallapus piece was poorly written and as silly as I think that is, I admit, it stings a little. I’m not sure why. Like, I read that piece and I still find it funny as hell.

But here’s the thing that I have noticed over the years writing for Pith. No matter how obviously funny my posts are, a lot of guys don’t recognize them as even attempts at humor. Not me trying to be funny and them just not finding it a joke that strikes their funny bone, but legitimately, I don’t think that, once they’ve assigned a “female” voice to a piece in their heads, they recognize the signals that say “this is a joke.”

I mean, I’m fine with a joke not landing. They can’t all be winners. But the older I get, the more I write, the more comfortable in my writing I am, the more it weirds me out–this unrecognition.

***

There’s this guy where I work. I don’t work with him. He’s not even affiliated with my employer. He’s just with a group who also has office space in our building. Ever since he started, he’s kind of given me the heebie jeebies, though I can’t really say why. It’s a kind of over-familiarity and standing too close and…I don’t know. Nothing has happened. I keep an eye on him like a hawk. I don’t have any evidence of him deserving my bad feeling.

But yesterday he came up to me in the hall, saying he got a new phone and now he can’t get on the wifi in the building and would I mind typing my user name and password into his phone? Which he then shoved at me. Then he stood too close to me to try to show me how he just couldn’t figure out how to get hooked up to the wifi and I faked ignorance. I said IT had walked me through it over the phone and I didn’t remember what they’d done, but it was a few complicated steps. But he kept thrusting his phone at me.

But finally, he then changed to standing again way too near me and wanting to chat about where IT was and did I have their phone number.

The whole thing was just super weird. Like, every instinct I had said not to touch his phone for any reason and to get away as soon as possible.

***

Today this news is reporting on this pervert cop over in South Carthage who openly harasses women and everyone knows it. The women he’s harassing are all too poor to hire lawyers and sue the town and the mayor doesn’t want to kick him off the force because he’s just two years from retirement.

So the continued suffering of the women in South Carthage is more acceptable to the mayor than fixing the problem and maybe hurting his buddy.

And he’ll probably continue to get reelected.

***

It’s hard sometimes not to feel like I am not and will never be allowed equal footing, that it’s too hard to see me as a person.