The Orangening

I keep saying this is an orange afghan, but so far, it’s not very orange. Here are the representative squares of the last three rows.

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Granted, that middle one isn’t orange, but it’s a variegated yarn that is very orange in parts.

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Getting Some Stuff Moving Along

I had a really productive weekend. I got some good writing done. I’m about a third of the way into Wexler & Hancock’s Killing King. I had a lovely dinner with friends and then a lovely brunch with some other friends.

And I got a bunch of this afghan moved from “almost done” into “done.”

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A thing I have been fretting about with this afghan is that it’s got a kind of decorative doodad on the top and bottom and I have been worried that I might not have enough of the same color yarns to do the doodads. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me until right now, but I can finish my squares and then do the doodads. Then I can use the rest of the yarn on the filler triangles.

Also, because of the doodads, the afghan doesn’t have a border. I’m a little nervous about that.

Complaining Helps

After I complained about the bombing book, I decided that I’m not writing a history paper or a straight-up piece of journalism. After all, I don’t know who did my bombings. I can’t answer the basic who, what, when, where, why, and how questions (though I do have what, when, and where down okay).

So, I thought, just go ahead and muse. Write the things you want to write. Admit your doubts. Say what you wonder.

And that has opened things up for me.

It’s not going to be very long, but maybe I can get some good pictures.

Ugly

I still hate pictures of myself. I hate that, when I see pictures of myself, I reflexively think “disgusting.” I hate that I don’t even think this about other fat women my size. Or fatter. I still sometimes blame the fat, but it can’t be the fat if I find other big round bodies attractive or neutral.

It’s me.

And I’m really grateful for the drugs that don’t let my mind jump to that and then stick there and worry at it until I hate my life.

And I’m grateful for the therapy that has taught me to demand my brain slow down and articulate how it’s feeling, really.

But I’m also really grateful for a little dude who genuinely delights in seeing me. To him, I just genuinely and value-neutrally look like myself, a person he likes.

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We were both covered in refried beans, because he likes them but can’t quite get them from his hand to his mouth without them ending up everywhere else.

Family Time

I am all familied out. I love these assholes, but lord, I am grateful to come home to my empty house.

I would have been burned at the stake in earlier times. Not because I’m proficient at cool magic or anything, but because I would have lived out in the middle of the woods alone, in a ramshackle hut with a weedy garden and I would have recognized all the local birds.

But look at these two dinguses.

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Hard not to love them.

I am a Patient Man. I wait. I wait. I wait. I wait.

If you know me in real life, you know that I’m waiting around for things. I’m waiting around for the FBI to send me files I FOIAed a year ago. I’m waiting around for the National Archives to tell me how much lead time they need to go through JB Stoner’s file before I can see it.

I do internet searches on my lunch hour, trying to think of combinations of words or phrases that might bring some heretofore unknown piece of information to me.

And I work on afghans.

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Can This Dog Count to Five?

Long-time readers of this blog will need a moment, I’m sure, to collect themselves after laughing that this is even a question.

But when it’s too muddy to do our normal walk, we’ve taken to just doing laps up and down the driveway. It’s not perfect, but it gives Sonnyboy a chance to poop.

Today, I said, “Let’s do five.” Meaning, five times up and down the driveway.

And without complaint, he did five times. And then went in the house.

Like he had fucking counted the laps.

I am 100% sure this cannot be. And I am also 100% sure the only explanation for it is that he knew we’d done five laps.

I don’t know how to test this, though.

But clearly, what I mistook for stupidity was this dog’s genius eccentricity. Or something.

Ha.

Hard

Yesterday, I did a reading at Cheekwood. The day before that, I found the grave of KKK leader Emmett Carr. While at Cheekwood, I was talking to C. about life and, anyway, I admitted that I have been crocheting so much because this bombing story is just so fucking hard.

It’s not just that I don’t think I can figure out who exactly did it, it’s that these dudes are terrible. I hadn’t realized how much I cling to the idea that overt racism can be an unfortunate character flaw in an otherwise lovely person. I mean, I think I know better than that, but you really confront your unconscious biases in a situation like this.

I think I’m a racist. No, I mean, I know I’m a racist. I think that’s terrible and I try to overcome it, but I’m not going to, because so much of white society is set up to guide me easily into racist positions and beliefs. I am a habitual racist and, like someone trying to quit smoking in the 70s, it’s hard to give it up because everything is set up to make smoking as easy and convenient as possible.

But I keep thinking of this reflex my mom has, whenever she’s recounting the story of something bad someone we know has done, to say “well, I’m also a sinner.” So, my mom can tell you about how their neighbor ended up being Ted Bundy II, and she’s still going to insist on seeing herself as also fatally flawed. And I find that deeply endearing but also frustrating, because there’s just a world of difference between my mom, who can get lazy and tired and not be her best self, and Ted Bundy, who has set out to be the worst of himself.

And I’ve wanted to believe, because I have to live in this world, that the Ted Bundys are rare and outnumbered by people like my mom.

But in a story that starts for someone “I’ll hurt children,” there are a lot more Ted Bundys than Betty Phillipses.

And they’re terrible all over. Their hatred of black people isn’t their only character flaw. They’re lousy spouses. They’re terrible parents. People flee from them, and rightly so.

It’s made me acutely aware of how much racism is built into the assumption that race terrorists can otherwise be good people–as if a willingness to hurt people doesn’t show a willingness to hurt people, because the people they’re hurting are black (or brown or gay or whatever).

But it’s also tough.

And I realized I’ve been crocheting so much because I need out of my head, out of the space I share with these people.

I keep thinking, why am I doing this? But it’s because the story as it’s been told to us is wrong and lets too many people off the hook. And I just can’t accept that.

Oh, Oh!

Y’all, I just realized on my walk this morning that the people I’m looking for–the thing that separates them from more run-of-the-mill racists–are willing to target white people.

That’s the line they’re willing to cross that even other violent racists aren’t.

And that’s why the “community,” even if I don’t have a sense of the full scope of it, seems so small. Because inside the subset of “I know and work with other racists to achieve our racist goals” is “I’m willing to harm and kill black adults to do it” and inside that is “I’m willing to harm and kill black children” and inside that is “I’m willing to harm and kill white people.” The deeper into the subsets you go, the more people you lose.

And as much as the people in the smallest subset may appear to be loners in their own communities, they knew and knew of each other.

Log Jam

I have too many afghans with deadlines.

But look at how this is going!

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I also watched the trailer for Megalodon a bunch of times. Because I’m only human.

And, you know what? I like Randy Orton. Everything about him is true. It is stupid to wear a hoodie with no sleeves. His tattoos make him look like he has fake arms. He always looks pissed off that he has to be alive in the world.

And yet, I still like him as a wrestler and I always look forward to seeing his matches.

Cooley

I’ve been slowly working my way through the Rhinestones & Cocaine podcast. I’m still haunted by the Spade Cooley episode. Coe does a great job with it and I really appreciate the way he lays everything out and treats it as fucked up how many people knew about this and just let it happen.

But my rage toward those people is an inferno.

Spade Cooley is bad enough. He’s a nightmare of awfulness. And when he died, I was like “good.”

But Spade Cooley was in prison where he belonged. All the motherfuckers trying to get him a pardon? Like, on a scale of one to ten, and Cooley’s a ten, what the people who knew what he was doing and still worked on his behalf did has to be a seven or eight.

And it makes me so angry that those folks just go on with their lives.

Silliness

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This weekend, my nephew made a silly face at me. He’s often smiled at me and been delighted when I smiled back. But this was the first time he made a face that was different at me. I didn’t know how to do it back to him, but I loved it.

Friday Things

My cousin and her family are in town! Her kids are just so adorable. Her son is like some kind of Star Wars savant. And he gets so big-eyed and excited when he tells you everything he knows.

I spilled Sprite all over myself at dinner. That was pretty embarrassing. But my cousin’s daughter reassured me that she spills things all the time and it happens to everyone. And my step-niece said I could blame her, if I wanted.

And my nephew is in a new stage! Now, when he’s tired of you holding him, he just puts his arms and lets out and holds his body stiff. He goes from cuddle-bunny to dry starfish.

Which means he can prefer things and people! Like, he can want and unwant things. Well, like, he’s run into stuff he didn’t like before. But this seems like the first time I’ve noticed him being like “Okay, enough of this.”

I also went to lunch. In a way that is going to lead to another lunch. Which really necessitates me getting to the National Archives this summer. So, that’s exciting and a little terrifying.

King

I spent some time yesterday looking into the death of King, as a part of my consideration of J.B. Stoner. All it told me was that I need to get a hold of the new Wexler book, which basically shows how the Mississippi Klan supported Ray in his efforts to kill King. I think. That’s what I took from the book’s description anyway.

And if the Klan is involved, then I’m curious to know if they were able to find out what Stoner knew when.

I guess I’m slowly coming to the opinion that… well, I guess I’m conspiracy adjacent. I don’t believe Stoner was behind every terrible tragedy of the Civil Rights era, but I do believe that he was supportive of every terrible tragedy of the Civil Rights era. And sometimes that support might have come before hand and sometimes it might have come after.

But I also remain convinced that the number of people willing to plan to do things that could kill people was small. Of course, the number who would support them was larger. But I mean, the number of actual people who would take part in something that required planning and action. That was small. Maybe fifty people, if that many, in each Southern state.

I may be making a distinction without a difference but I see one between bombing someone–which requires planning and acquisition of materials–and heat of the moment violence, like people burning cigarettes on sit-in protesters or even filling their own restaurant with bug spray to try to drive protesters out.

It’s all bad, but one allows the perpetrator to tell him or herself that he or she wasn’t planning on doing that, that they’re not a bad person, that they were provoked. The other doesn’t. The other requires someone at peace with hurting others.

In the era I’m looking at, roughly 1940 to 1980, we know we have probably two guys responsible for the Clinton bombing, probably five guys responsible for Hattie Cotton, one or two for the JCC, and two or so for Looby (unless some of those overlap), a handful of people in Brownsville, a couple of people in Memphis, Gladys Girtenti and her accomplices.

And again, to be clear, these folks had support. It wasn’t like Nashville just had ten problematic people and everyone else was fine. But the people who would plan to do something they knew could kill people, that’s a very small number.

And I just don’t believe they were unknown to each other. I will believe, forever, that Gladys Girgenti could have given you the names of the bombers I’m looking at.

And I think Stoner could have provided a list names of the vast majority of racist terrorists in the South willing to plan to kill someone.

I don’t think he was their boss. He’s not some secret super villain. But he was their ally. That’s for sure.

Working on an Afghan, Going Round, Round, Round

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Slowly it grows. Or, actually, probably pretty quickly. I’m not sure if it’s going to be seven or eight rows tall. A lot of that will depend on how it looks at seven and how much yarn I have. You can see how much better the skulls in the middle of the afghan look. That’s because they’re being pulled on all four sides. I need to put a big enough border on this to help pull the outside squares, and thus the outside skulls, into shape. Which means I need to leave myself enough yarn to do so.

I need to do the third Third Man afghan, a wedding afghan for my cousin, and then a peacock afghan and then I think I’m taking a break from afghans for a second. I want to get that t-shirt rug done. I have this cool pattern for a deer head I want to try.

And I want to be writing. Which, hey, is a nice, weird feeling!

Theft of Ancestors

A thing I find really infuriating and heartbreaking is when black people contact me about something I’ve written about that relates to their family because this is the first they’ve heard of someone who knows something about their relatives.

They’ve been told that there’s basically nothing. And there is next to nothing, but not nothing. There are places to dig, things to know. And even when we don’t have specific stories about particular people, we certainly know enough about the circumstances in which people were enslaved to make broad generalizations.

This morning, I was contacted by a black Douglas. I could tell her that, if she wanted to come to Middle Tennessee, she could certainly still see the things her people did–the churches they built, the roads they cleared, the houses, the city.

Denying that to people… it is genocidal. I don’t say that lightly, but stripping people of their ancestors, denying them the stories–for better or for worse–of their people is an ongoing attempt to destroy them.

I don’t think this mess can ever be fixed. I’m a little jealous of people who think we just need to tear everything down and start over, because there is no clean slate. As long as there are people, there’s people, you know? Revolutions presuppose that we can somehow escape that.

But we can’t. There are no fresh starts. Not really. This is what we have. There’s no escaping it.

Back at It

After a week of not, I’m hoping to get back at the bombing story.

I can’t decide if the skull afghan is going slower than it should or faster. The skulls are pretty quick to make. I just need a lot of them. I think it’s that it’s basically a granny square and I feel like I should be able to pop those off much more quickly than these squares go.

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And half my yarn for the third Third Man afghan has arrived!

Anyway, I’m going to go burn a few minutes on the bombings.

Oh, Hey, I Also Finished that Thing

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My second Third Man afghan is done! Well, not washed yet, but done. I really like it. I’m glad I got to try some new things. I’m glad I wasn’t stuck doing those new things too much if I didn’t enjoy them.

I did that join I promised myself I would only use on baby blankets, because I thought this was a small enough afghan that it would be okay. And it was–just okay. But, holy shit, I took what I’ve learned this past year from some of my more difficult afghans, and look how fucking awesome that border turned out.

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Now I’m working on this skull afghan, which I like and am already annoyed by. I think it will lie flatter once washed, but we’ll see.

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And fuck it, here’s one of the nephew.

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Hobbes Lives!

It’s against my long-standing blog policy to correctly name anyone in my house who’s not dead. But the orange cat isn’t in my house and I want you to get the graffiti right.

So, yes, big news. The orange cat is not dead! That motherfucker went to the vet and got blood drawn like a champ and his numbers are, in the vet’s words, “incredible.” No sign of any kidney problems, which is apparently remarkable in a cat his age. The vet was blown away that he’s never had any medical problems in his whole long life. And, indeed, this is the first time the Butcher and I could recall ever taking him to the vet for anything other than maintenance crap.

So, if it’s not physical… well, she’s not sure it’s not physical. She’s testing his blood for thyroid problems and she does think his arthritis probably sucks. But that can all be fixed with medication. Which, get this, you can just rub on the inside of his ear. No trying to shove fucking pills down his throat.

But she thinks he may be getting a little senile, he may just not be adjusting to not having the Butcher around, since he was primarily bonded to the Butcher, and being old and slow, he may be feeling overwhelmed by the other animals, especially the dog.

If only there were a pet-free house where his favorite person lives…

Oh, wait.

So, the orange cat lives at the Butcher’s house now. And we’re going to see how that goes. But judging by all the adorable Instagram photos, I think it’s going to be good for him.

I can’t tell you how relieved I am that he’s alive and that we could make an easy switch in his life that makes him happy.

Moving Through Molasses

This week has just been slow. And very busy. And a lot. I have gotten a lot accomplished at work, including the hard thing I was worried about. But my mind has been on grief. I feel forgetful and scatterbrained. And slow. I’m still working on this afghan. It’s just taking me a long time to get through the join. And I don’t feel like I’m working on it less than usual. I feel like I’m just physically slower than I normally am.

I haven’t gotten any work done on the bombing manuscript this week. I’m just not in the headspace for it.

The thing about having this dying being in my house is that it’s just so sad. Not just because he’ll be gone, but because Sadie is gone and my grandma is gone and my uncle is gone and the people who built this house are gone and the dachshund I grew up with is gone. Everything, eventually, slips away until it’s your turn to be the one that disappears.

Friday, Then

The cat’s vet appointment is Friday morning. I don’t have anything profound to say about it. Last night, he went outside and he didn’t come back in and I went looking for him. He was just in the garage, curled up by the back door. But I thought of all the times when Sadie would be standing in the yard, unable to come up with what she should do next, and the cat would walk out there to get her and guide her back to the house. Or all the times, after Sadie died, when he would go for walks with me and then wait for me in the far field to make sure I got home okay. And there I was, going to look for him, making sure he got back to the house okay.

I’ve lived with him his whole life, except the first four weeks of it. If I bought a cat today that lived as long as he’s lived, I’d be 61 when he died.

I hope he haunts me. Because I’m going to miss him. According to my math, I’ve spent 40% of my life with him. The Butcher has spent half his life with him.

It’s Fitting

Y’all, I have to make three Third Man afghans. The one I’m almost done with? Let’s say “circumstances” and, yeah, the person’s not going to want it. So, it’s going to a poet. And I will be making an afghan with no yellow or black in it for the person who was going to get this.

This is a weird town where the circumstances of some genius you don’t know affects your evenings for the next month or so.

But I find some poetic justice in ending up making three Third Man blankets.

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A thing I’m really enjoying, though, is that I’m trying all different kinds of things, different color changes, different techniques, because, if it’s too hard, I just do one of them.

I have a very, very important work meeting this morning. Then this afternoon I need to find my guts and call the vet about the orange cat. The Butcher came by to see him yesterday and he, of course, perked back up. But, sadly, not enough for me to be fooled.

I think part of my dread, if I’m being honest, is I’m afraid that the vet will say, “Well, we can do x and see if he improves” and x will involved me trying every day to shove a pill down his throat so that he and I can both come to hate each other and then he’s still going to die sooner rather than later, because he’s 18. But what kind of monster wouldn’t try shit to see if it helps? It feels cruel to say, no, I’d just rather kill him now.

And, my god, I don’t. I want him to just die peacefully in his sleep or die in a car accident where he’s the driver and we’re all left wondering how the hell that happened.

But I’m having a hard time figuring out how to know what medical interventions are “worth it” even if it makes him unhappy and what’s just saying “let’s be miserable together until we have no other option.”

He’s had a nice, full, long life. I don’t want him to suffer. So, I guess I’m hoping the vet will say something clear like “hey, we can give him this pill and all this will clear right up and he’ll be pissed at you about the pill, but he’ll get another five years easy,” in which case, hell yes. Or he’ll say “everything we can do is going to make him angry and afraid and won’t make him better. It’s just buying you a few more months, but they won’t be good months.” And then it’ll be clear.

But I’m afraid it’s going to be more nebulous, and I won’t know the right thing to do.

But, also, he’s outside right now, and I’m so relieved because it means he isn’t in here peeing on things without me realizing.

Stripes

If you’re not a crocheter, I don’t suppose anything about these two hexagons looks particularly hard, but these were, in fact, two of the  hardest things I’ve ever crocheted. In the one on the left, each stitch in the increasing rows is a different color, which, in real life means that each stitch is two different colors. Like, to make a double crochet, you wrap the yarn once around your hook (a yarn over), you put your hook through the piece where you want your stitch to go. You grab the yarn with your hook and pull it through your piece, then you grab it again and pull it through two loops on your hook and again, grab the yarn and pull it through two loops on your hook.

The important thing for this discussion is that the loop that’s on your hook to start with is the top of the stitch. So, the last thing you do on the stitch before becomes the top of your next stitch.

So, if you want your stitch to appear to be all one color, you need to build the stitch before it so that the last thing you do is draw through the color of the next stitch.

It’s a hard and weird rhythm to get into. And your yarn twists like a motherfucker. The one on the right involved carrying the black in the yellow stitches, which you can kind of see if you look too closely, and tucking in a lot of yellow ends.

I think the orange cat is dying. Or, rather, I think when I take him to the vet, the options are going to be “do a lot of shit for him that will keep him alive a little longer, but he’s 18” or “let him go.”

He’s peeing everywhere. He’s always been a spite pee-er, and I assumed the murder of my Roomba last week was in retaliation for some imagined slight.

But this morning, he peed on the floor of my room and he looked up at me wide eyed and confused. I just don’t think there was any time between “you need to pee” and “you are peeing” for him.

It’s the Butcher’s cat. The Butcher is out of town for his anniversary.

Since the cat doesn’t appear to be in any physical pain (though who can tell with a cat), I’m not doing anything today. I want to wait until the Butcher gets home tonight and talk things over with him. I don’t mind taking the orange cat to the vet alone, but I don’t want to spring it on the Butcher. If it’s not an emergency, I don’t want to take the cat to the vet without telling the Butcher that’s what’s happening.

I just want to cry about it, but I also am filled more with dread than sadness.

My heart is breaking. I just assumed he’d go out in a fight or an explosion. I didn’t prepare for frail and afraid.

Working on the Other

If you constraint is “this motif, these two colors,” how can you keep it not boring for yourself? Also, I love that solid yellow motif so much that I kind of want to marry it.

A lot is going on here. I’ve got a lot of work stuff–moving warehouses, planning a book launch, getting a catalog out, getting a bunch of promotional postcards done, etc. This weekend I have to get my emissions tested, do my taxes, write a blurb for one book and a forward for another and go grocery shopping. Plus I wanted to pick up the sticks in the yard, but we’ll see if I get to it.

And April is full up. One weekend my cousin and her family are coming. Another weekend my parents are coming. I’m speaking to a women’s group about Fort Negley. I possibly have some other shit I’m just not looking at my calendar about right now.

I get this feeling that some stuff has happened this spring–the Fort Negley decision, the Post gig (even though it wasn’t the first time I’d done it), the Times interview–that makes my life slightly different than it was before, in ways that I don’t fully realize.

And it’s fun because I have a bunch of good friends with whom I can just be honestly “What the fuck?” and “This is so fucking surreal.” and they laugh and are delighted with me. And some of them are also doing delightful, surreal shit and I’m so happy to be able to help support them how I can.

But then I’ve also gotten some… I don’t know what to call them… connected people who have decided it would be fun to connect me with people who can help. And that’s nice and cool, though I have some anxiety about whether I have the right or enough social skills to handle that.

And then there are people who don’t know me or don’t know me very well, but they like what I’m doing and they sometimes tell me and that’s awesome.

Then there are the folks who come sniffing around. The “you’ve had some success I want to benefit from” folks. And it’s really hard, sometimes, to tell them from the folks I’m having positive, but new-to-me interactions with.

But other times, when now I’m worth your time, now I’m someone you’ll deign to talk to, it’s pretty damn obvious.

It continues to be amazing to me how often people demand that I have no history, no memories. That my job is to continue to be a blank slate upon which they can project their fantasies which I, then, in order to be perceived of as “nice,” must go along with.