My editor likes Dynamite Nashville: The blah blah blah we’ll figure out the exact wording of later. Me, too, a lot.
I’m trying to support a friend going through a difficult life change and, honestly, one of the hardest parts is how blindsided and confused I am by the behavior of the person instigating the changes.
It’s like a funhouse mirror version of the person I thought I knew.
Ugh, this week. This year. This country. These people.
Let’s contemplate this baby nephew trying to get some pizza, insisting on drinking out of a regular cup instead.
First, I hate that it’s become kind of a requirement for women to trot out their personal pain in order to get people to give weight to their political opinions.
Suffice to say, I’m a Gen-X-er. I lived through the 80s and 90s. As it did to all of us, bad shit happened to me.
I had thought that what I wanted in the wake of that was for it to not happen to women in the future. I was fighting for that.
But it turns out I should have also been fighting for it to ever stop for women my age. Not just being assaulted but the blame for having been assaulted back then.
Here’s a thing that I have come to realize: many, many men think this is what women are for. One of the perks, then, of being powerful is that you have access to more women to use this way.
But here’s the thing I have only just realized and I hate it: a lot of folks, men and women, who consider themselves progressive believe this, too. The “progressive” stance is that women aren’t just for your amusement, we also can be doctors and lawyers and reporters and whatever. Which means a dude can seem like a feminist hero–cough cough Al Franken cough cough–and still believe that women are for him to do what he wants to to. After all, he believes we should be able to do everything we want to, as well.
It makes me so mad. It hurts my heart. So much of our pain doesn’t matter because people believe pain just comes with the territory of being a woman. This suffering is what we’re for. To suffer for men’s pleasure.
And I wish I could unknow that, truly.
And also, I met with the reporter from WPLN and I think it’s going to be fine. She might just interview me about my project.
I had been suffering from what I thought was a minor cold, involving me feeling stuffed up and headachy. But I never had a runny nose nor did I have any boogers. So, it was hard to breathe, but there wasn’t anything in my airways clogging them up. My airways themselves were just mad and inflamed.
Last night, I had one last idea for the copper yarn and I threw a skein in the dye pot. At the moment the whole house filled with the smell of hot wool, I could feel my nose shutting.
I’m fucking allergic to wool. Maybe it has to be hot and wet to trigger it, but that’s what’s making me stuffed up.
And I still have all the walnut I need to dye for Julie’s afghan. So, I think while I’m waiting for the walnuts to start falling, I’m going to have to investigate if I can somehow solar dye with walnuts, and keep the wet, warm yarn outside.
Sorry I haven’t been around. I’ve been super busy at work and, you know, it’s been really nice. Things had been so bad for so long and so stressful that just having a bunch to do and getting the support we need to do it is a joy.
In my typical midwestern fashion, I’m loathe to say that, because it means the universe will know about my happiness and try to squash it like a bug, but I’m going to tempt fate anyway.
Someone asked Curious Nashville if the Looby bombing had ever been solved. They’re looking into it.
Let me be clear, up front, that I put on my big girl panties and offered to help in any way I could.
But I was so mad! My whole gut reaction was “So, you think you’re going to swoop in and answer this question I’ve been working for two whole years on?” Like this story is mine, or something.
The deeper I get into this and the more interesting the story gets, the more I’m terrified that someone’s going to come along and solve it before me.
And yet, it’s really okay if they do. The point is for the city to get an answer, not for me to win at answering it first.
And I need help shaking trees.
But man, trying not to let my ego fuck me up is hard.
God, I don’t know what’s become of me. I had a wonderful vacation and now I’m feeling actually excited to get back to work and to hear what they’ve been up to.
Unfortunately, this is me, now, consumed by this baby blanket that has grown out of control.
I hope my co-workers will still treat me as they always have.
I’m still processing Birmingham. Part of it is just realizing how inadequate I am to the task. I keep having to remind myself that my goal is to say what happened in Nashville and why. It’s not to perfectly nail down how this terrorist network worked. Not to identify everyone in it.
But I’m also very excited about the work and I hope the National Archives gets to the Looby file sooner rather than later.
I stayed at the Tutwiler, because it’s right across the street from the research library, and lord, I’m not sure I’m cut out for that kind of fancy. It was fun, though. Just like, I was driving a ten year old Corolla with one hubcap. Lord. That’s not what people who stay at the Tutwiler drive.
I had some good success in the city archives, especially in the files on the bombing of Bethel Baptist and Temple Beth-El (neither bombing was successful). Nashville shared their list of suspects in the JCC bombing with Birmingham. It’s a weird list. Like, I tried to find the people they named either in newspapers or census records (which aren’t perfect, but they’re a good place to start) and one of their suspects either was or had the same name as a college football player, two of their suspects appear to be black (?), two I couldn’t find at all. One, at least, did know John Kasper, but he’s another Catholic dude.
And I’m really starting to get suspicious of the ways the Nashville police constantly jumped to “It was the racist Catholics.” Like, sure, I guess, maybe. But also, maybe, racist Catholics didn’t have any loudmouth advocates in the Church who would have hollered about their treatment, unlike local racist Protestants.
I’m really glad for the opportunity to get to go see places, too. I think it tells you a lot. But it got me thinking a lot about the contrasts between Birmingham and Nashville. In Birmingham, you can go see this stuff. These places still exist. Not in Nashville. There’s still a Hattie Cotton school, but it’s a new building. The JCC was demolished to make room for 440. Looby’s house and his neighbor’s house were torn down.
On the other hand, we don’t have any neighborhoods left in Nashville that are as blighted as the neighborhood where Bethel Baptist is. It reminded me a lot of a town after a natural disaster, where they’ve come in and knocked a lot of houses down, and there are still more houses that are falling down, and yet still people live there and try to make a go of it.
I had a good trip to the Nashville room at the downtown library yesterday. I looked at a ton of pictures and got some names and saw both an awesome picture of Emmett Carr and an awesome picture of Looby and King that I don’t think I had ever seen before.
But a thing I realized is that what I know about these bombings is so different than what other people know that I sound like a crazy conspiracy theorist when I start talking about it.
Even that I view the JCC bombing as one of our integration bombings is completely mindblowing to people. They do not know that was part of the same campaign of terror.
On the one hand, it’s cool to think of how much stuff I’m going to be able to share with people. On the other hand, it does make me wonder if I’m reading too much into stuff.
The Butcher threw two birthday parties for the nephew, because he wanted one for the family and one his friends could drink at. My job was to take my parents someplace for the drinking party.
Ha ha ha ha ha.
I tried, but my dad had NO intention of not being present at both parties. But also, if anyone drank at the second one, I didn’t notice it.
Here’s him with both his cakes. By the second party, they had wised up and just let him eat wearing only his diaper.
And my niece and I got her wool dyed. In spite of her worries, she was fine at it.
I wish the grape Kool-aid smear on her face was showing up better. In real life, it looked like a magical charm or war paint.
Today I have to run some errands and then go to the library! Hurray.
And now I’m kind of leaning toward Dynamite Nashville: The Plot to Stop the Civil Rights Movement. Simple, straight-forward, easy to remember.
The Nashville Plot: Dynamite the City, Terrorize the Country, Thwart the Civil Rights Movement
Then maybe with one of the color images of the Hattie Cotton bombing, since those are so rarely seen?
Is this the most beautiful thing ever or what?
The pattern was delightful. Just the right amount of hard, but done in a way that really made sense to me, so I enjoyed it every step of the way.
I’m going on vacation next week, mainly to libraries, but, hey, for me, that sounds like Heaven. But it’s meant that I’ve spent this week being scattered and busy, trying to make sure that everything is okay for me to leave.
And I’ve been fixing some yarn. And by fixing, I mean untangling in a nightmare scenario.
And I got some yarn so tangled up in my ball winder that I just had to cut it and have two balls.
Which, ha ha.
Say you went searching for stories about “Jack and Diane.” All kinds of stories. You might get the John Mellencamp song. You might get a story about a president and a singer. Or a president and a princess, maybe? People might just have made up stories where the characters were named Jack and Diane. They might tell you real stories about folks they know with those names.
But say you came across two stories about Jack and Diane and in both stories a guy shows up and beats them both with a chair. In one story, the guy’s name is Ricky. In the other story, the guy’s name is Richie. Your first question might be “Is this story real?” and say it is. Say you find corroboration in the local papers that this happened or at least, that people were talking about it happening and believed it had happened recently. So, yeah, there’s still a chance the story was made up, but it’s more “real” than most urban legends.
Then say you look at the stories in the papers more closely and, damn, you realize one story takes place in one city and the other story takes place in a city a half an hour away. Is this Richard dick (ha) just going around terrorizing people with the same names? Or maybe, to make this analogy work, people with the same jobs?
Yeah, let’s say that’s it. You get two stories about a mechanic and a nurse terrorized by this Ricky/Richie dude. You can somewhat verify them. They take place in two towns near each other. What do you put the chances of Ricky/Richie being a real person at? At this point, I’m like 80% sure Ricky/Richie is a real person.
But let’s say you look even more closely at those newspaper accounts and you see that those stories took place 100 years apart.
Is Ricky/Richie still real? If he’s made up, how do you explain the similarities of the stories? What if you know someone whose dad was the nurse in the second story? Someone who can say “That happened to my dad.” Someone who genuinely doesn’t seem to know of the first story.
How are both stories seemingly describing the same dude?
I don’t have a good explanation for it, but I’m going to be back on the Something’s Not Right podcast this October wondering the fuck about it. Or the analogous situation.
Y’all, dyeing with the kids, round one, about did me in! And they stole my Kool-aid. Well, I mean, they also used it to dye with, but I had enough to use with my niece next weekend and now I don’t. And so I’m pretty sure they took some home to try to talk their mom into making it for them.
Which, ha ha, is pretty awesome.
So, I have yarn hanging everywhere to dry, but no good pictures of it, yet.
And the Butcher is going to dog-sit for me, so I can go to Birmingham and spend a short amount of time in their library looking at stuff. So, now I have to make a plan for what I absolutely need to see. And also make time to go down and take a look at Fred Shuttlesworth’s church, since it plays such a key role in my book.
Well, I don’t really understand how that turned out so beautiful, but I’m glad it did. I’m going to probably have to do something to help the yarn in the back, which is… less attractive.
One drawback to finally having someone in power at work to come over and say “Yes, you can do this,” “Why are you doing this in this stupid hard way?” “Okay, let’s make some decisions,” is that, since this is not how things have been working, my brain is trying to process how to deal with it all.
And all week I’ve been having these really vivid dreams about work. Like vivid enough that sometimes, in my waking life, I’m like “Oh, shit, I completely forgot I needed to write a children’s book for dogs by this afternoon,” and then I’m like “wait, that makes no sense.” And I realize that was dream work stress. Not real work stress.
Anyway, this week has been interesting and fun and also very stressful. Obviously.
This is the color I got from the indigo dye vat. She said I could come back and dye it darker if I wanted and I was like “No, are you kidding? This is the most beautiful blue I have ever seen.” It’s almost the exact same color as the black bean yarn, which… in fairness… I also thought was the most beautiful color I had ever seen.
I need to go to Birmingham. I have to figure out the dog situation. Like, can I do a research trip in a day? Can I not get bogged down in interesting details that don’t pertain to my question? Or do I need to do it in two days? In which case, who’s going to watch the dog?
Also, right now the book is called “Busy Looking the Other Way: Why Nashville’s Integration Era Bombings Remain Unsolved,” but I’m entertaining “The Rise of the Confederate Underground: Some subtitle I haven’t come up with yet.” The Rise of the Confederate Underground is better, isn’t it?
I got my first three half-poppies in place. Just nine more to go. But I’m about to be hugely busy, so I don’t know if I will get this done any time soon. I am looking forward to seeing how the border goes. It’s just been a really lovely thing to work on. And I’m excited to see how it looks after being washed and laid flat to dry.
And my friend’s mother-in-law has an indigo dye-pot going! So tonight I’m going to take a skein to her house and learn about indigo dying. Basically all I know about it is that it’s magic and you do not want any oxygen in the mix (so I’ll have soaked my yarn for 24 hours before heading up there with it).
And this weekend the step-niece and step-nephew are going to dye their yarns for their afghans. And next week, baby nephew turns one! Already!
Look, he’s already got that world-weary look of a guy who’s about to start a story about back in the day. He remembers what it was like before teeth. He’s out here working hard, standing up, saying “dog,” and kids today, they just lay around, waving their hands. They’re not even waving their hands AT anyone. They don’t know about “hi.”
Poor baby nephew.
So, get this. Our work day starts at 8:30. Not 9. But my old boss had us working from 9 to 5.
It’s weird. It’s not important. We’re not in trouble or anything for it. We just have to start coming in at the correct time.
But I’m fascinated by the psychology behind it. Were we supposed to be less concerned about other people not coming in until 10 or just coming in in the afternoon because we, too, were all flouting the rules? But don’t you have to know you’re flouting the rules for that to work?
A thing that I know by now, but that still surprises me is how small the group of racist terrorists was in the 1950s and early 1960s. I mean, most white people were racist, so you’d think the number of people willing to act on it would be way high.
But as I research, I realize, no, I’m looking at a pool of less than 200 people here. Probably less than 100 (though not much less). So, when J.B. Stoner tells a Klan leader in 1958 that he’s got a guy in Chattanooga he likes to use for bombings, who was in the military, specifically in demolitions, and then an Atlanta racist in 1963 is talking about a young guy he just met from Chattanooga involved in bombings in Nashville, who was in the Marines, even if he’s not named either place, that’s the same dude.
That’s Stoner’s mystery man.
Y’all, I went to bed at 11 and I woke up at 10. In the morning. An hour before when I normally eat lunch. I think I have just had so much stuff buzzing around in the back of my head that I couldn’t completely turn it off and sleep well.
Gladys told me about a murder. I tried to find out if the murder was real before I decided what to do about it, but the details were so vague that I began to think that either she was bullshitting me or she’d gotten the details wrong.
And then I found the murder in the paper. And I was like, well, what the fuck do I do now? All I have is second-hand rumors from a terrorist.
But last night, I went to WPLN’s Podcast Party and Emily Siner’s guest was a retired cold case detective. I am not even shitting you. I learn a thing. I become troubled by the not knowing what to do about it of it. The Universe puts me in the path of a person I can tell.
So, I told him. And I told him that I wasn’t sure how much of what Gladys had told me was true and how much was just her trying to settle some old scores. And he got what I was saying.
So, that’s a relief.
And I went and got the Wilton’s copper food coloring.
Look at how close I was just with my own color mixing! (It’s the second from the left.)
I overdyed three of the yarns from the day before yesterday to see if moving from the microwave to a pot was going to work. I think it is, but I also think I’m going to have to go by Joann’s and get some gel food coloring. Scaling up with the drop kind is just giving me a little more mottled look than I want.
And, after five hours on two evenings, I figured out how I was fucking up the poppy! It’s now in place. Good thing that was the only one! Oh shit…
I can’t believe how beautiful this afghan is. I’m truly just blown away by it. Even the join is pretty simple once you get the hang of it. And it looks fantastic. I think I get caught up in the idea that everything has to be so fucking hard to be worth it and I’m glad to be reminded that simple, fun stuff can result in great beauty and happiness.
The shit did hit the fan at work yesterday. Hard. I’ll have a better sense after I see how next week goes, but I think that may have been the worst of it.
Also, I already broke my yarn swift! I think I can fix it, if I can find the piece that came off.
I’m going to see my baby nephew today. He’s trying to walk, but he doesn’t yet have the whole “standing without holding onto things” part down yet. He remains the greatest.