I Have Good Friends

One thing that I hate most about anxiety is that, even when good things are happening, I don’t always appreciate them. I feel like good things are happening to me right now, but they just seem so inconsequential.

I’m an anxious mess about, in no order, getting the lawn mowed, getting the kitchen ready for the guy to come in and fix the floor and the steps, coordinating getting to the therapist with getting the guy fixing the floor paid, how little progress I’ve made on the bombing story in recent weeks, whether I’m supposed to be doing something but just don’t know it with the secret project.

And there’s madness at work. Most frustratingly, me trying to pay people who won’t return my calls and emails so they can get paid.

I was supposed to have lunch with a friend today and I just had to cancel because I was feeling so overwhelmed and anxious–like, if I work through lunch, maybe I can leave early and get the house in order. The dude comes at 7 in the morning!

I’m just ranting here.

I feel helpless, like the country is going to shit and there’s nothing to be done about it. I have so much I need to do in my private life, but everything is anxiety producing. I need to get the kitchen floor fixed, but what if the economy tanks and I lose my job and then I don’t have that money because I chose to fix the floor?

So, anyway, that’s my headspace today.

On the other hand, I think I may have solved the dog’s flea problem.

Changing Paths

I have switched outer squares. I admitted to myself that I didn’t like the flower square I was making because the flower was too small and my idea of just filling it out with other, different flower squares was supposed to mask my unhappiness with the square.

There’s probably a lesson there. But I’m going to try real hard not to learn it.

I did, however, find a square I like that I think will make a fine outer loop. Also, it’s pretty “border”y, so that will let me have a simple border for the whole thing:

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Reasons I like it (even if the edges aren’t looking exactly straight here). It’s got kind of pokey features similar to the interior motif. It’s got open areas like the interior motif. It’s got a roundness to it that reminds me of the other square and, like the other square, it’s built on eight repeats in each round. And it’s got dimension without being too heavy. And the flower is nice and huge. Plus! Popcorn stitches.

I also think I have solved the dog’s flea problem. I can’t find any evidence that anyone else is having problems with the Serestro collar, so I don’t think it’s that fleas have developed an immunity to it. But what are the chances I’d get two collars in a row that would fink out?

So, this morning, I scrutinized Sonnyboy. He had no fleas near the collar or on his head or neck. None on his upper shoulders. And then, beyond his harness, on his back and back end, a ton of fleas. So, if the collar is working on the front end, why isn’t it working on the whole dog?

After our walk this morning, I took off his harness.

I don’t know why that should matter, but my fingers are crossed.

Also, my dad went to the doctor and he is cleared to drive again. His doctor thinks it was just some cartilage breaking loose, so he’s got a cane and hopefully can limp along until his scheduled surgery.

Oops

Well, dear readers, I didn’t need to worry about the strange size of the outer square because I fucked it up! But now! Now that I understand how I fucked it up, I have an interesting (to me at least) quandary.

Now that I better understand how to construct these flowers, do I do an outer ring only of this particular version or should I go through my whole motif book and do a bunch of different flowers? I’m leaning toward the latter, because the rest of the afghan is so repeaty. I think I have room for some variation here.

Anyway, fucked up on the left. Right on the right.

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Red/Read

Yesterday I didn’t even get out of my pajamas. It was too hot to walk the dog and I was just emotionally drained so I read some in this book I’m reviewing for Chapter 16–which so far is so good that I’m continually stunned at the author’s ability to get really complicated ideas across in a straight-forward and engaging way–and worked on this afghan.

So, the outer loop came together how I thought it would.

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And I am still really in love with that outer square. So easy and yet it looks so complex and lacy. But my concern was that I didn’t want the middle part of the afghan to be too distorted by connecting it to that ring of squares. So, I needed a join that would both connect both pieces fairly snugly while not stretching the outside rows of small squares without me having to tuck another ten thousand ends.

I settled on a chain-one join.

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You do a single crochet on one piece, chain one, then do a single crochet on the other piece. I’m not in love with it, but I’ve convinced myself it’s not too bad. Here’s how the whole thing looks:

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And from this perspective, the join doesn’t stand out, which is all I can ask of it. But I was feeling daunted because the outer ring, if you remember, is supposed to be those big old three-d flowers and I was like, god damn it, I’m going to have to come up with another join that makes me want to pay someone else to do it, because that square is yet another size.

But, y’all, if I just don’t do the last round in this square (or take the last round off this square, as the case may be), then it’s the same size as the squares I already have. No fancy join necessary, just my usual. Whew.

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I am a little bit worried about how the afghan is weighted. You don’t normally see ones that are so lacy in the middle and then more solid on the outsides. Usually, it’s solid middles, lacy borders. But I like it, so fuck it.

Attack

I think I had a panic attack last night. Anyway, I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t think clearly. I didn’t take anything for it because I kind of didn’t realize that’s what was going on until I was lying in bed almost asleep and then, since it felt like I was finally falling asleep, I didn’t want to ruin it by getting up.

My dad is being completely ridiculous. He heard something pop in his knee before the immense pain started. They have him in a brace that basically immobilizes his knee and he’s on crutches. He walked at a snail’s pace. And yet, can we sit around and watch TV or will he let someone else pump his gas? No.

And, y’all, my mom should not be driving. Which she seems to know, but she’s still going to have to drive him back and forth to the doctor.

I genuinely don’t understand who they’re doing this for. Like, who is the judge or the audience that is supposed to be impressed by my dad enduring a huge amount of pain when he should be taking it easy? Who is watching and praising my mom for still driving even when she’s scared of it, “because it must be done?”

And this unseen judge, this scrutinizer and scorer, it’s in my head. I don’t know if it’s what causes my anxiety or if it’s a symptom of my anxiety, but I know how brutal it is and I can’t stand that my parents live with it, serve it, instead of doing what it would take to be happy and comfortable and safe.

I hate that they don’t think they can prioritize those things, because that would make them “bad.”

And at the same time, I resent that they taught me the same thing.

The Thing

The meeting about the thing went well. I’m hugely excited. It still feels a little unreal to me, but it’s always lovely to have someone say nice things about your work. So, yeah, I think the thing is happening. I will keep you vaguely updated as I know more and then specifically updated as I can.

We ended up on a side track talking about making art in the current climate and how hard it is to figure out how to talk about these things that matter so much without it turning into “Trump sucks!”

I have been thinking a lot about the Beats and about how current a poem like “Howl” seems. I wasn’t a big Linkin Park fan, though I always have a soft spot for people who love a wide range of music and I thought it was obvious they love a wide range of music. And I appreciate how their music has gotten a lot of people through tough times, that it was a voice saying, “I have been where you are. You are not alone, even though it seems like it.” And it breaks my heart that one of the men making that music, doing that important work for others did not have that himself–a voice he could believe that made going on seem possible.

Was he a best mind of his generation? I don’t know. But I do know we lost him.

And rereading “Howl” just now, I’m struck by how current it seems. Sixty years old and it still reads fresh.

The thing I think for my own creative process, though, is that I am still screaming “Look what is happening! Look at the terrible things that are happening!” and cursing the ascendancy of Moloch. I don’t know how to offer myself to you in Rockland. I don’t know how to find this holy.

 

Lunch

Today I have lunch to talk about the big maybe thing I can’t talk about yet. I am a bundle of nerves. But a bundle of nerves who hasn’t gotten in the shower yet.

We only took a short walk this morning and still we had to rest in the middle of it, because it was so hot already.

We have a wall calendar at work upon which everyone is supposed to write their days off. Some of us had thought it was clearly established that this was in addition to emailing people, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. So, those of us not town in that office often don’t know when people are here or not. Much to our ongoing frustration.

Our co-worker’s wife had a baby this week. We didn’t even know she was pregnant. I told my office mate when she came in and she stopped, looked confused, and asked me “Did you know anything about this?”

“No.” I said. “I had no idea.”

And then she asked, “Was this on the goddamn paper calendar?!”

And I laughed so hard.

Dad

So, my brother called me from Georgia yesterday to report that Dad was at the ER. I half-wish I were the kind of person who could feel like this was poetic justice. He fucked up his knee.

Well, his knees are already good and rightly fucked. He’s having knee replacement surgery after the holidays. But rather than take it easy until then, he has to drive all over tarnation and clean people’s bathrooms against their will and move couches to complain about the things behind them.

And so, when he got down to my brother’s, he ended up at the ER.

This has lead to a family kerfluffle because my brother is pissed that my parents went to the ER before he went to work, but didn’t bother to call and tell him until after he was at work and couldn’t leave to be with them. The Butcher is pissed because they briefly seemed like they had this idea that they could just stay in Georgia until Dad was off his pain killers and then he could drive them home.

But now it appears that they’re going to stay in Georgia until this weekend, at which point my brother will drive them in their van this far and then rent a car home. Then the Butcher will drive them in their van home and rent a car and come home.

I have, thankfully, been left out of the negotiations. And you know what? It’s weird and nice. For the first time in my life, my brothers are taking care of the crisis. Completely. All I have to be is moral support.

When I realized that I was being kept out of the loop of planning or participating in this madness, my first thought was “Great, they can deal with this.” Not, “Oh my god, they’re going to kill Mom & Dad.” Not “But I must swoop in and help.” Just “Yep, those grown ass men can handle this.”

It’s what my dad’s always wanted, I think–for his boys to care about him and take care of him. And now they are, so that’s nice.

Can I admit, though, I feel a little like I’m cheating? Like, I know that I should be stressed up the butt about this. I know I would normally feel anxious and I’d be calling every hour to see what’s going on. I know, thanks to so many family crises, exactly how I react in these situations.

And I’m skipping out on all the emotional burden thanks to the medicine.

Sorry, brothers.

I’m concerned, of course. But they can handle it.

Red is the Color of My True Love, Yarn

This red afghan is still my whole heart at the moment. I keep worrying that it’s too busy, that maybe it should have just been a large, plain thing that would let you soak in this red and not have to focus on anything but the color of it.

But, argh, I love each square so much. And this second batch of squares seems to be going pretty quickly. I need 24 and I already have 8. I’m a little curious to see how fitting them together with the first squares will go, but I know two big squares fit 3 little squares. I just need a join with some flexibility because the little squares don’t have a flat edge. I was thinking about doing that join I did for the baby blanket, where you do a double crochet in each side, but I’m wondering if there’s such a thing as a chain stitch join that would give the join the flexibility of the double crochet join without taking up that much space.

But I’m most worried about how to transition from those medium squares to the large squares. I think my plan for the moment is to get the medium squares done and attached to the small squares and then to do the outer ring of large squares. This would give me the dimensions of the gap I need to fill between the medium squares and the large squares. Then I might just fill it with double crochets. We’ll see.

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Some Fools Fool Themselves, I Guess

I’m feeling better this morning. It’s just hard. I love them and I wish I could figure out how to spend time with them in ways that don’t make me feel like I want to hide until the visit is over.

My dad has a friend and he’s constantly talking about how this friend treated his kids so bad and now they’re messes and how you can’t ride someone all the time and expect them to be okay.

And I keep listening to him say these things and I keep waiting for the connection to be made and… nope.

We got the dog to play a few rounds of fetch. I couldn’t tell if he liked it. He seemed to be having an okay time, but after a short while, he took the ball and went in the house.

I feel you, dog.

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Too Much Togetherness

My parents cleaned my bathroom today. Like, scrubbed on hands and knees cleaned. They also vaccuumed. They love to do this shit because, if I complain about it, then I’m a lunatic. Because they’re helping.

Really, they’re going through all my shit and passing judgement on it and me. My house is disgusting. I need to do this and that. Yes, they rearranged my house to suit them, cleaned the bathroom to their standards, and then tried to leave me a list of things to do, as if my job is to take care of their house.

This, though, is my house.

It doesn’t feel like it right now.

And I hate it. I hate that they do this and I hate that I don’t know how to stop them from doing it

I hate that their biggest complaint is that I’m bossy, but they do this shit. I hate that they make me feel so bad about myself without even trying.

I hate and feel guilty about how miserable they make me.

Cemetery Questions

So, I went out to Calvary Cemetery to make sure that some folks were in there who I thought were in there for my big bombing project, and I ran into a priest who was just a joy to talk to about history stuff.

But one of the things we talked about was the old Catholic cemetery and he had it in a slightly different spot than I know Fort Negley thinks it is. He told me a delightful story about what a problem they had getting the Irish Catholics in town to stop burying their dead in the old cemetery illicitly.

But, if the Catholics are right about where the old Catholic cemetery was, then what was where Fort Negley thinks the old Catholic cemetery was?

My wonder…and I’m not sure how to go about figuring this out, since maps of the cemetery are so hard to find (really old maps, I mean) is whether the cemetery at first stretched on both sides of the tracks. The city cemetery, I mean.

Here, I made a map:

City Cemetery

Okay, so the rectangle made by the red and blue lines, the smallest rectangle, is kind of the obvious looking old boundary of the city cemetery. This also matches up with problems the owner of one of the business I know of has had in the upper northwest corner of having gravestones on his property. The yellow circle is very loosely where Fort Negley has thought the Catholic cemetery was based on old maps and an old picture they have that shows tombstones in that area.

The gray circle is where the Catholic priest at Calvary showed me the old Catholic cemetery was. And you can see clearly why they had to get everyone out of there when the land got eminent domained for the railroad. They believe they moved 700 bodies out of the cemetery (though whether they got all the Irish people who were illicitly putting bodies in it, who knows?

So, if the Catholic cemetery was where the gray circle is, roughly, who was where the yellow circle was? Whose gravestones are in that picture?

I have a guess. It’s a guess of pure speculation, and you should not put any faith in it at this point, since it’s just a guess. But if you look above and to the right of the yellow circle, in the city cemetery, you’ll see a big grassy area full of unmarked graves. Those are, by and large, African American graves. Jack Macon, for instance, is in there someplace.

But pre-Civil War Nashville had a small but vibrant community of free people of color. There was some black wealth. Not a ton. But some. There were some black people who could have afforded headstones. Again, not many, but some. Would those headstones have been separated from the grave markers of wealthy whites? Maybe.

Would they have been easily lost due to racist neglect and the needs of the railroad? Yes.

I mean, you can go in the city cemetery and find markers for white people who died in the 1840s and 1850s. But markers for black people with a little money? Again, I’m not talking very many. Maybe even as few as ten or fifteen families, but the photo doesn’t show that many markers, maybe only as many as ten or fifteen families’ worth.

And if that is the old western edge of the black part of the cemetery, is it so hard to believe that’s where they opened the ground and put the black workers from Fort Negley?

Was the old city cemetery originally the size of the red box?

Trivia

I went with S. to see Roxane Gay last night. (I have thoughts but they sit so close to my bones… or possibly my fat… that I’m not ready to put them down in public.) So, my parents took the Butcher and his family out for dinner and somehow they ended up playing trivia. And my parents don’t go to bars, so this was their first experience with it.

They called me up on their way home and, you guys, they were so delighted. They were laughing and bragging about how they came in second and… I don’t know. I just had this thought that there are things in the world that my parents would enjoy and they don’t know it. They don’t even know how to find those things.

And it’s not like my parents are not adventurous. They are. But somehow, sometimes, I feel like there’s this other life they could have had where they would have been a little happier and it’s tantalizingly close.

And sometimes they stumble into parts of it.

And that makes me happy for them.

You Should…

Yesterday I read an article about how women should have fewer children to help the environment. It was written by a feminist. Which means all her previous stuff about women’s rights to bodily autonomy was bullshit.

So, that’s frustrating.

It’s also a numbers problem. The difference between a million and a trillion is staggering. The difference between a thousand of something and a trillion of something is staggering. But at some point, we just perceive those as very large numbers.

Women having “too many” (and is that ever ugly) kids is everyone who is in the ocean right now peeing in the ocean of our environmental problems. Like, it sure seems like it’s problematic, but everything in the ocean pees in the ocean and that’s not what’s ruining the ocean. You peeing in the ocean or not has no effect on the huge atolls of garbage and plastic. The ocean deals fine with pee.

I get that we want there to be individual solutions because we’ve lost faith in collective efforts to change.

But conceding a woman’s right to determine what happens to her body in this one case, even as you argue that it’s wrong in all other cases is just gross and wrong. And forcing women to have fewer children isn’t going to save the environment.

I don’t know. It just really bugs me how quickly bullshit is okay when it’s your side proposing it.

My parents are not packing up the Butcher’s stuff today. Apparently he talked to them about it and made it clear he’d be super pissed off. That did not stop my dad from sitting at dinner divvying up my stuff. He kept insisting that the Butcher come and get half of my dishes because they “need” them. The Butcher’s family has their own dishes.

Maybe this is a weird thought for an opinion columnist to have, but I do wonder if one of the unacknowledged privileges of whiteness is the belief that you should get to boss people around, that it’s fine for you to sit around and think about what people need without consulting with them and then make grand pronouncements you expect to be followed.

I don’t know, really. I also think I get so on edge because I don’t want to be blindsided by nonsense that I then turn everything into too big a deal.

But I’m also glad that the Butcher and I have said out loud to each other on many occassions that this isn’t how we want to be treated or how we want to treat each other.

Red Afghan, Red Afghan

I have made a terrible mistake with this afghan. Not a crocheting error but a philosophical mistake. The middle of this afghan is 54 lacy squares that attach to each other with ten stitches, five on each side of a gap. Which means each side of the square has four ends to tuck.

This square has convinced me of the importance of Join-as-You-Go, which is not a skill I have (yet). I’m not sure how it would have worked on these squares, but my god, it could not have been stupider than this.

Still, it looks good and I love this red so much.

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The World is on Fire

Yesterday, and I can’t find it now, of course, I read a brief paragraph on how Lovecraft’s fiction, even the stuff that doesn’t deal explicitly with race, is bound up in the terror of discovering that you’re not the most important thing in the universe, which is, at heart, a racist terror.

But this is also the thrill of the apocalypse, which we as a nation love, the belief that we are so important that this moment must be unique among all other moments that things cannot possibly go on after us.

I have been trying not to succumb to that kind of thinking, because it it at heart not helpful and untrue.

So, instead, I have been asking myself things like “What does how I’m feeling right now teach me about how people must have felt about X?”

And I think I am, in part, understanding some of the existential terror on the homefront of the Vietnam war–how you can see with your own eyes that something is very, very wrong, but also have to live with the vertigo of so many people trying so hard to insist that, if we all just go along with it and put our faith in institutions and our leaders, everything will be fine. When, obviously, going along with it and having faith in institutions and leaders is getting people killed.

And yet, if we don’t have faith in each other and find ways to work together, what hope do we have?

Hard

A thing I have realized in therapy, which I guess I knew at an intellectual level already, but hadn’t admitted to myself deep down, is that I love my family very dearly–they are the most important people to me–and I don’t trust them.

And that makes spending time with them a source of great anxiety for me because I’m getting and giving all these cues that say “We all love each other and take care of each other and watch out for each other” but only the first part is always true.

Anyway, my parents are coming on Wednesday for the baby shower on Saturday. I’m a bit concerned about what they think they’re going to get up to on Thursday while I’m at work. They haven’t said anything to me but my brother said that they’re planning on making the Butcher’s room a habitable guest room. Which, you know, I get it.

But you don’t go through someone’s stuff without their permission or without even discussing it with him if you want to have a functional relationship with him. And you don’t fail to discuss it with the owner of the room the stuff is in so that she doesn’t have an opportunity to tell you that’s a dumb thing to do and that you shouldn’t.

Old Wounds

Yesterday I went over to the NAACP to see what they might know or have heard about the bombings. I knew it was kind of a long shot, since part of the goal of the bombings was to keep who did it a secret from the people it was done to. But I shared some of what I’d learned and… I don’t know. I felt instantly bad about it.

The head of the NAACP, who everyone told me I should talk to because, if anyone would know anything, he would, grew quieter and quieter. He seemed to withdraw into himself.

I think this story is going to open old wounds and I feel awkward about that. But another thing I think I realized in this meeting is just how much I know about this that most people don’t know. Even people who were alive at the time.

And that’s kind of making me rethink some of how I am presenting the story. I need to make sure that I am very clear about who people are and how they fit into the larger national hate movements. Because people don’t know.

But I am very aware that for me this is interesting and fascinating. But it’s going to be painful for folks.

Paella

The guys came over last night and I made paella for them. They were a little dubious at first. And then they went back for seconds. Huge piles of seconds.

It made me feel like I had powerful magic.

It also made me a little sad because I was planning on leftovers for dinner tonight.

New kitty has taken to pooping in the bathroom (on the floor, not any place useful) when there are fireworks. The litter boxes are clean but she doesn’t seem to care. She must register her displeasure, though there’s nothing I can do about it.

Lifeguard

Last night we went to a friend’s wedding (and, y’all, her dress was adorable and perfect for an outdoor wedding AND IT HAD POCKETS and I died of jealousy and delight at that dress and then was revived by barbecue) and it was full of children.

The child I was sitting next to was trying to decide if dogs have a tooth fairy (no) and she was alarmed that the tooth fairy only ever brought me quarters. The tooth fairy brought her a doll with fairy dust on it, but the fairy dust did to make her fly (the girl, not the doll), which was kind of a bummer.

I tried to argue that it was for the best, because how could her mom come and rescue her if she was flying around and needed help.

Ah, but she thought her mom would be excellent at flying rescues, because she had been a lifeguard.

I don’t think you can argue with that. I can’t, anyway.

In unrelated news, here’s the third square of my afghan:

IMG_2279Each tiny square in the square is only three rounds. It’s so fucking delightful. You get that awesome thing in three fucking rounds.

So, my plan is that this square will fill the middle of the afghan and it will go something like this:

IMG_2282Tiny squares in the middle. A row or two of the flat flowers around that and then the big flowers on the outside. I’m a little nervous about the squares all being different sizes, but I figure this is what lacy joins are for.

Good God

So, you know my theory that, if you want color to stand out, use a simple pattern and if you want the pattern to stand out, don’t go hog-wild with the color.

So, this afghan is for someone who wanted something that reminded her of her awesome flower gardens. And I found this awesome red yarn on sale. I think there are going to be three different squares, but I’ve only worked up two of them. I’m going to work the third one up just as soon as I’m done with this post (it’s from the great big book of cool squares with errors in just about every pattern I’ve tried).

I feel like maybe I should be doing something more productive with my time off than I have been, but god, I feel so much better than I have in weeks that I think I just really needed this.

Anyway, check this out. I think this is going to be the outside square:

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So, a cool, round floral pattern with some 3-D stuff going on in the middle. The red looks a little more orange in this picture than it is in real life.

Then, inside, I think there will be this square:

IMG_2278Which, note, is another round floral pattern, but flat. And then I’ve got a third square picked out that’s also round and flat that I think is going to alternate with this one to give the inside a more lacy feel. But I’m going to need for it to be a similar size to this one, or that’s a no go. So, we’ll see.

This red, though, damn I want to conquer nations for this red.

Still

I think I made the dog and myself a little sick yesterday by walking too far in the heat and humidity. Well, not just the head and the humidity. It’s that there’s no breeze. You sweat but it doesn’t do any good, because there’s nothing to evaporate the water off you.

Today we just took a shorter walk and the dog is still sleeping hard.

I’m making a Batman cowl for my step-nephew, which I might finish up today. I ordered the yarn for my next two projects–another mermaid tail, this one for my niece, and yarn for this what I’m hoping is a really cool afghan. I’m supposed to have an afghan before these, but the recipient wants a colorful scrap afghan and my stash is low.

And then I went and bought the yarn for another afghan, which I want to immediately start making. It’s a kind of complicated flower design and I’m going to do it all in this amazing red I found. I hope it will really be striking.

I got rejected this weekend, too, which kind of ruined my dad for a minute, and then it make me laugh because it was a rejection that took a long, long time. The sure sign of “This made the short list.” And I was going to let that ruin my day after my secret good news? No.

Okay, maybe a little.

The Thing

Welp, something may be happening, which I can’t talk about. At least, outreach has been made and plans have been alluded to and time-frames referenced. And I know these kinds of vague posts are annoying, but this is literally all I’m thinking about and I want to have some signpost, should I ever come back this way, that this was the moment I was like “What? Yes. God, okay, yes.”

Sadly, though, it doesn’t involve Cocktapusses or Jason Statham, so those dreams are still unrealized.

I mean, I really only have one question for Jason Statham: What is the cutest thing you could make scary merely by glaring while holding it? Like, Jason Statham holds a brand new born thirty seconds ago baby and gives you a look that says, “This baby and me are going to fuck you up.” Do you believe it? Or he’s holding your grandma’s hand. Or 500 Beanie Babies. How far do his menacing powers extend?

But even this question is not enough to distract me from my happiness.

Here’s an unrelated thing, this week Radley Balko quoted me in the Washington Post. I was thinking about that this morning as I was walking the dog, how weird it is to find myself here at this late date. I mean, I’m 43. And I’m the same old person I’ve always been, I think. And yet, now, suddenly, sometimes, people say “Well, Betsy Phillips said…” or “Betsy Phillips found…” and that matters, carries weight.

And I don’t really know what to make of that. I mean, I like it and I’m proud of it, don’t get me wrong. But I haven’t done anything except be curious in public for a long time. And, like, I know that’s not nothing, but…

I guess here’s the thing. For a long time, I was not a person for whom this stuff happened. I tried and I tried, but stuff didn’t congeal or it congealed in small ways and then petered out and that was awesome, but I thought that was as good as it got for me. I wasn’t raised to believe that things like this happened to people like us. There was cool shit out there, being done by cool people, but we didn’t get those opportunities. We just did our own thing and tried to live small, interesting lives that somewhat satisfied us.

But something happened. Some barrier was crossed. And I know it because here I am on the other side of it, but I don’t know when or how it happened.

Sitting at the Wet End of a Hose of Words

Happily, I got invited to Third Man yesterday to sit in the blue room and watch while Abraham Smith read his forthcoming book of poetry out loud. It took three hours. We had multiple breaks and were encouraged to bring our lunches, which I did.

It was a small crowd–me, a professor from Watkins who loves old history stuff, poet Ciona Rouse, Adia Victoria and a friend of hers, two women I didn’t know, but the blond one looked vaguely familiar, and I think there might have been another guy. This is why Methodists fill from the back–so you can see who all was there. But I wanted to sit close, so I may have missed who was behind me. And all the Third Man crew.

I know I’ve talked about this before, but I remain in awe of the way that Chet can set the vibe of a space and hold it. There’s a lot of trust he’s able to invoke almost instantly–“Hey, we’re going to do something cool that, if you agree to just be present for, could be wild.”

Having someone read his poetry to you for three hours is surreal. At first, I listened like I would at any poetry reading, paying attention to phrasing and imagery and trying to decide if there was a narrative to the poem or if it was a collection of images. But you can’t–or I can’t anyway–hold a three hour poem in my head. So, at other times, I was just hearing the repeating sounds of words, not even the words themselves, just the kkkkkkk or the chchchchchch and realizing that other people in the audience might have been struck only by all the sssssses.

Then my mind would kind of loop around to hearing words and phrases and verses again, but other times, I would just hear the rhythm of it.

Like, in listening so long and so intently, I forgot how to listen and had to relearn. It also felt mildly hallucinogenic. Every time we took a break and left the dark room and went out into the bright space of the porch, it felt like we were leaving some place where time had no meaning and entering a smaller, flatter world, which, frankly, was a nice respite.

By the third hour, you could see he was suffering. He would stuff first one hand in his pocket and then the other. Sometimes he would grasp his back. Often, when he moved his arms, sweat would fling off him. They mic-ed the box he was standing on, to pick up the sound of him stomping his boots on wood, but by the end, he was not stomping, just, occasionally tapping. He was wrung out.

And I was on his side. We all were, that small half-dozen or so of us, leaning in and willing him, urging him to make it to the end. And he did. And then he collapsed in a chair and I high-fived him.

He was spent and grateful, but I felt like he had done something for us, and I was grateful, too.

When I got back to the office, my co-worker asked me if it was good and I said, “I don’t know.” It seemed weirdly beside the point. It was extraordinary. And I’m really glad I got to be a part of it.

Rabbits

The dog took off across a stranger’s yard today after a rabbit and I was not happy, but I didn’t freak out. The thing I’ve decided about him is that he’s really not motivated by you being mad. I have kind of decided that he thinks my angry voice is a warning. Like “For sure don’t come over here because there are dragons” or “Hide while I go check this thing out.” or “Run away, Sonnyboy! Run away!”

So, if I want him to come back to me, I have to make it seem super awesome. And so far that’s worked. Which is not to say that I don’t worry every time he does something stupid.

I guess, too, that I feel like I’m focusing a lot on the dog lately, because he is unconcerned with any larger issues. The dog will never worry about healthcare. He’s not anxious about whether we can get our shit together.

I’m working on an afghan for my step-niece. I was hoping to have it ready for her birthday, but her birthday was yesterday and I still have to figure out if I can finish it how I want to. Plus, as is my way, I have a ton of ends to tuck.

But at least at this point, it looks like what it is and it is marvelous, so everything from here on out feels like just finishing up.

IMG_2251It’s the most sculptural thing I’ve done, I think. I don’t remember ever thinking about how an afghan would work in three dimensions before.