My birthday’s not until Monday, but the Butcher’s family had me over for birthday lunch today. We had bratwurst, corn on the cob, delicious potato salad, and cake. And then Mrs. Butcher let me take home some potato salad. I’m going to eat it for dinner and I’m not even going to pretend like it’s healthy.
This has hit me really hard and I’m not sure why. Maybe, I think, it’s because to me my generation has always felt a little lost and thanks to early deaths like Cobain and Shakur, as if we were all kind of hanging by a thin thread. To me, the late 80s/early 90s felt like we were all angry, but for justice, for changing things, for not being what our parents were, and then by the end of the decade, we ruined Woodstock.
I don’t know. I guess I felt like we had to cling together in small groups and try to do for each other what the rest of the world would not do for us. If we stuck together, we would survive.
But we’re still slipping away. We haven’t been able to keep each other safe, to change the world to fit for us. There never were enough of us for that and now there are fewer.
Y’all, Sonnyboy got mad yesterday! The orange cat had struck him repeatedly in the face and the dog gave a big old angry growl/snap in the cat’s direction. If you know how dogs say “Fuck off,” you know the cat wasn’t in any real danger, but I was still surprised!
I was telling the vet that Sonnyboy never seems to get down or mad. I mean, the Roomba cornered him in the bathroom and he just took it knocking into his legs for a minute until it decided to go elsewhere.
Sometimes I forget how old Sonnyboy is, because I feel like he’s experiencing a lot of things that most dogs experience earlier. Like running. Like cuddling. Like it being safe for him to be deeply annoyed and then mad at the cat. I don’t ever want him to be mean. And, frankly, I’m not sure he has a mean bone in his body. But I want him to feel comfortable disliking things and not standing for them.
And today, you guys, this morning, he threw himself down the hill and he slid on his back head first halfway down and I was a bit scared because on your back head first seems like a dangerous way to go down a hill. But he got up and he came over to me and he seemed satisfied.
And I feel lucky that this wondrous mystery is my friend.
It’s clear to me now that my dad is freaked the fuck out by my research. He’s trying to be supportive, but he’s obviously worried that coming to the attention of the FBI in any way–even if it’s to ask questions and try to get answers–is going to go badly for me.
I have a theory of the Looby bombing, which I won’t go into here, but which I have floated by my dad. I’ve outlined my evidence–or more clearly, my lack of evidence–to him and his response is that my theory does not take into account the true enormity of Hoover’s evil.
And I get what he’s saying. I truly do. But I feel like all I can do is–like I said–look for antecedents in the public record and I do not know of another instance of what my dad is suggesting.
I also don’t know, this long later, how I would find out. I’m not stuck yet, but it is something I’m wrestling with.
And that my dad believes he knows the truth of what happened, and that it is the truth, well, I get why he’s scared. I just think it’s more likely that I’ll be stonewalled until the end of time than it is that the FBI is going to…I don’t know…take me to some blacksite or whatever.
Still, ha ha, yeah, I’m using all my anti-anxiety skills to not let this worm its way into my brain.
My parents got me a Roomba for my birthday, which, as long-time readers may have some vague recollection of, is not until next week. But it came early, so I opened it and got it set up and last night it ran for the first time.
The dog was afraid of it for like a half an hour, but then got bored with being afraid. The orange cat briefly tried to fight it and then lost interest. The house, however, struck back repeatedly. I had to empty the filter three times during its run, dislodge a sock that seemingly came from nowhere, and save it from a hanger, again, that seemed to come from nowhere.
I know this is partially because the Roomba does a better job of getting under things than I have ever done in my whole life of cleaning, but it also makes me feel like everything in my house is under a fine layer of dog hair, which, I guess, is also true.
I repeat my claim that making things in groups of twelve is very satisfying. Just the other day I quickly went from being a forth done to being a third done and tonight, if I finish the square I’m working on, I’ll be half done.
My next challenge is that all the rest of the squares are opposite squares I’ve already done. So, if I had a fat row of brown and a thin row of red, now I need to make a square that’s a thin row of brown and a fat row of red. I already know I’m going to fuck that up at least once and start an identical square to one I already have. But the thing I really love about the off-kilter squares is that, since they are squares, I’ll be able to place the center of the swirl in four different spots, in essence giving me four different squares made the same way.
And things are really stressful and crappy at work, so I’m overcome by the urge to just stay home and work on my squares. It’s nice to have something that, though complicated, I can figure out, and the results are cool as fuck.
In other news, I’ve emailed both Al Gore’s people and the historian of the FBI. If I hear back from either or both of them, I’m going to laugh and be delighted.
One thing I’ve noticed since the Butcher has moved out is that I feel like I have so much more time, which at first struck me as weird because it’s not like we socialized together or did housework together or whatever.
I think it’s really because I almost never turn on the TV. It’s not because I’ve become some virtuous hippie. It’s just that I listen to podcasts, which I can do while doing chores or crocheting, and so it feels like time has opened up. I mean, I had three days in a row off, most of which I spent at libraries and socializing and yet, still, the dishes are done, laundry is done, dog is walked, FOIA requests have been made, etc.
And I think I may have found the trick to making the off-kilter squares go faster–more stitch markers. It’s a little weird because in crocheting, before this project, I think I’d only ever used one stitch marker in a project. For a long time, I didn’t even have stitch markers because I had an old safety pin and then I lost it so I picked up a small thing of stitch markers and only ever used one.
But this project, once I figured out that three stitch markers would make it super easy, was eye-opening. So, when I got to these off-kilter squares and struggled so much through that first one, on the second one, about halfway through, I thought–what if I just marked every repeat? That way, when I get to the end of a row and the pattern has been “(2dc in stitch; dc in next 14 stitches) repeat 5 times; 10 dc” I can just look back and count my stitch markers and see, yep, did my five repeats. It’s super handy. I’m just going to stitch-mark the fuck out of it for the rest of the squares.
I may stitch-mark the fuck out of everything. Having a meeting to discuss a thing we’ve discussed before? Now we’ll know how many times we’ve had that meeting. Find a man with multiple penises, but you don’t want to be rude and ask him if he’s a cockapus? Just discretely count the stitch markers. I mean, I feel bad for the person with multiple penises who also goes to a lot of redundant meetings, because they’re just going to be awash in stitch markers, but whatever. It’s for the good of all humanity!
I spent Friday morning at the downtown library because I believe it is imperative to avoid graduations if you’re not going to them, for the sake of your sanity. I was sitting in the cafe at lunch when I heard someone hollering my name. It was my co-worker, who had been downtown for some meetings.
“Wow,” she said. “I looked over and I almost didn’t recognize you. You look so happy.”
I don’t know what that says about how I normally look at work, but it seems like it’s not good. Ha ha ha.
I had to go back over yesterday and then I ran to the TSLA to get an obituary and then I spent part of the afternoon doing FOIA requests with the FBI.
I can’t remember if I said this already, but I need to keep it in the forefront of my mind, so I’m saying it again. The trick is to understand that, yes, there is a conspiracy, but to not let myself get sucked into ridiculous conspiratorial thinking. The way I’m trying to balance that is to only accept as reasonable a theory when I can find a factual example of something similar having happened.
This could work broadly–could J.B. Stoner have been sleeping with Dr. Fields? Would homosexual relations have been accepted in the white supremacist community? Well, one of the 16th Street Baptist Church bomber was known to be gay, so okay. That rumor could be true. Probably not useful, but plausible.
Or particularly–Gladys Girgenti was convicted of trying to bomb the Temple here in town. She left the Detroit area right after the Pontiac bus bombings. She said she was a 30-year Klan member and I discovered that her family was from here and still lives here. She wasn’t from Detroit. She was of the demographic that went north for work. So, on the one hand, I don’t have any reason to believe that she was involved with the bombings I’m working on, but I don’t think it’s a crazy conspiracy to think she was running in the right circles to know something.
And looking at particular bombing suspects, I haven’t ruled anyone out, but I feel like it’s more plausible that people who were life-long horribly terrible people are more likely to have been the bombers than the people who were just medium terrible. So, if I have three people, all segregationists, and one went on to have an okay life full of people who loved him and one who seemed not to make an impression on the world after his activities in the ’50s, and one who continued to be a nightmare to all who knew him, I’m not discounting that a person could have done one horrifically evil thing and then never done anything wrong again in his whole life, but I am putting the third guy at the top of my list. He gets first scrutiny.
And yet, of course, there were outlandish things that seem impossible–like Gary Rowe. Once you know that it’s a proven and accepted fact that the FBI had a dude who was doing the things on their payroll and they covered for him and kept him safe, then what do we make of the fact that the police knew immediately where to go to find who might be involved in the Hattie Cotton bombing and went immediately to a place after the JCC bombing to see if a certain person, whoever he might be, was the bomber (and there was some indication he might have at least made the bomb), but had no idea, no plausible candidates for the Looby bombing? We ran out of violent jerks between 58 and 60? That seems unlikely. At the least, shouldn’t they have checked in with their earlier suspects?
The fact that they had no ideas seems utterly unlikely to me. But that they might have known but left him alone? That I can see.
It’s supposed to look 1970s-ish and, so far, it does. But not really like the 1970s of adults, but my 1970s–childhood.
Also, though it doesn’t make me seasick in person, looking at it in pictures does.
Here we are so far.
Someone mowed my lawn. They did a fantastic job, even in the part across the creek. It wasn’t the guy I paid to clean up the yard, I don’t think, because even though he mowed for me a couple of times, he never mowed across the creek. Also, he left me an invoice and I paid him.
I did contact a guy about cutting my lawn, but he’s going to come by tomorrow and take a look at the yard and give me an estimate. So, I don’t think it was him, and also, I can’t find an invoice.
Neither of my neighbors’ yards are mowed.
Also, for the second year in a row, a mysterious clematis has appeared near my shed. In the shade. It’s not what I would call incredibly vigorous, but on the other hand, it’s enthusiastic enough to show up out of nowhere and give a blossom. So, hey, carry on clematis.
And I saw a giant rabbit last night eating the grass that’s growing in the cracks of my driveway. I guess the cats were out front?
And one last thing I’m thinking about–aside from violent white supremacists–is the weird thing that this afghan is teaching e about color. As you’ll recall, in order for it to have a ’70s feel, my idea was that it wasn’t enough to have ’70s colors, I had to use them in a ’70s way, which meant instead of using complimentary colors together for the contrast, I would use colors right next to each other on the color wheel. But I’m noticing a really interesting thing.
Look at this picture:
I don’t know if you’re going to have the same experience, but I guess, if not, this still may be interesting for you. There are only five different colors in this afghan so far–red, orange, yellow, green and blue (well, I take that back. That’s a lot considering there are only six colors in the afghan, but anyway…). The point is that the green that’s in the yellow and green square is the same green that’s in the blue square.
But unless I really stare at them, while thinking to myself “that’s the same god damn yarn out of the same god damn skein,” I see them as two different colors. The green in the blue square appears to have a lot of gold in it, so much so that I almost want to see it as more of a greenish gold than an actual green. The green with the yellow looks much greener and the yellow kind of pale and subdued, while the yellow with the orange looks brighter as does the orange, where the orange with the red looks more muted.
I feel like I’m getting twelve colors for the price of six. It’s really nifty.
Nothing makes me happier than when the dog comes when I call him. It feels like magic. Today he was across the neighbor’s yard, heading into the far neighbor’s yard and I called for him and he looped back around in a big circle and came running right to me.
I don’t know why it worked when so many mornings this would have involved me wandering through back yards calling his name while he hijacked an AT&T truck, but it did!
Also magic: if you’re making a twelve-square afghan, when you’re at three squares, you’re only 1/4 done, but when you’re about to finish your 4th square, you’re 1/3 done.
My favorite era of Nashville history is those very early years, with all those folks with oversized personalities making monumental decisions while sexy Frenchmen sex it up. I’ve learned some about the Civil War, though I credit mostly the excellent resources we have in town for pointing out the interesting things about it. Plus, I’ve had to learn some about the war to understand my second favorite era in Nashville history–the postwar pre-turn-of-the-century–which I consider to be Nashville’s second weirdest time. Let’s all talk to dead people and join the Masons and open parks!
And I thought I knew a lot about Nashville post-World War II to like 1970, because it’s the rise of Nashville as Music City and all kinds of interesting people are popping by and Jefferson Street was at its heyday.
But, Christ, I know so little.
One thing that I have failed to appreciate–and getting my mind around it and my attitude changed has been really crucial to understanding these bombings–is how very closely entwined anti-black racism and antisemitism were.
Due to both the personal hang-ups of John Kasper and J.B. Stoner, who were virulent antisemites, and the cross-pollination of KKK-ish groups and Nazi groups, white supremacists had a wide-spread and thoroughly-believed conspiracy theory that black people, by and large, were too stupid and docile to be up to the stuff they were up to with the protests and the lawsuits and the demanding of integration, and so, since they were up to this stuff, there must be someone brilliant and sneaky and hard to pick out under normal circumstances pulling on the puppet strings of black people.
And I get that it’s a tricky story to tell when you’re talking about real life. There aren’t a lot of Jewish people in the South, by and large, and many Jewish communities had survived by being as unnoticeable as possible. Southern blacks were not likely to have any more experience with actual Jewish people as Southern whites. So, from the ground level, when black people started advocating for change, from their perspective, it had nothing to do with Jewish people, except to the extent that they came to find they had some Jewish allies.
And the mother walking her little child to school as white people are hurling rocks and spitting and yelling racial epithets at her and her child is not thinking about Jewish people or that her plight has anything to do with Jewish people.
So, if you’re going to tell the story of the Civil Rights movement centering the perspectives of the people who were working for civil rights, the bombings of Jewish buildings and homes just served to prove that the KKK hated everyone who wasn’t a white Christian and were a violent menace.
And a lot of Southern Jews thought that either opposing integration or remaining neutral on it would protect them from any hatred spilling onto them (and I just want to reiterate that I’m speaking very, very broadly. If you drill down to particulars, you find many Jewish people, even very early on in the 1950s, taking a stand for integration.).
In the minds of Southern blacks and Southern Jews, their stories are not the same stories and their histories are not the same histories.
But in the minds of the white supremacists, they were. And I think this is a really important thing to realize. I mean, look at how it affects my work. If we look at Nashville history through the lens of non-conspiracy-theory, how many bombings did we have over integration after Brown v. Board of Education? Two–Hattie Cotton and Looby’s house.
But now let’s look at history through the lens of this “The Jews control the blacks. Get rid of the Jews and the blacks will settle down” conspiracy. Now how many bombings did we have over integration after Brown v. Board of Education? Hattie Cotton, the JCC, Looby’s house, and the thwarted Temple bombing in ’81. Fully half of the anti-black bombings were directed at Jewish targets.
I haven’t counted all the bombings across the South, but my observation is that you might find that a third of bombings and attempted bombings were on Jewish targets. So, if you discount them as being something other than anti-black bombings–say, merely antisemitic–, you severely diminish the scope of the violence and, important to me, limit your suspect pool. If you don’t see all the bombings, you don’t have a full picture of the atmosphere of violence.
I went to the Nashville room this weekend, which is going to be a tremendous resource for this story, I think, and I spent some time in the Civil Rights room. The JCC bombing is not on their timeline.
I woke up in the middle of the night last night, panicked because I realized I had forgotten to tuck in the ends on the middle of my last spiral, which, in real life, is not that big a deal. I also couldn’t remember if I’d approved my assistant’s timesheet–again, not a big deal in real life, because the system sends a reminder Monday mornings if you forgot to do it on Friday.
As I was laying there, the orange cat came over and demanded head scratches. I became convinced, utterly convinced, that this was not my cat, that it was some strange cat that had been coming into the house at night and sleeping with me and, if I turned on the lights, there would be this stranger.
I was completely panicked about it. And then I thought, this is insane. How would a strange cat be this comfortable? Why would the dog be so nonchalant about it? And then I was like, oh, yes! This is insane! You are having anxiety. And that dissipated it.
But a thing that’s been very hard and embarrassing for me to admit through this whole process is that I do have a lot of obsessive weird thoughts, which bother my life, and which I have just assumed were normal things everyone goes through, so, if I can function, why bother to worry about them? But waking up from a dead sleep and becoming convinced a strange cat is demanding head scratches from you is not really functioning.
Still, I find it deeply embarrassing, though I don’t know exactly why, to realize how much of my adult life was me being all “I’m utterly normal except for these few things, but I understand them and avoid them and all is well,” when really I have been fucked up in this minor but affecting way that I was just ignoring.
Anyway, I know part of it is that I fucked up my medication this weekend. And part of it is just the disappointment in getting rejected. But this weekend felt like backsliding. And that sucks.
Okay, so the story as we know it about the Looby bombing is that someone with 5 or 10 or 20 sticks of dynamite wrapped into a bomb drove in front of the Looby house and pitched the bomb from the car toward the house, trying to get it through the dining room window but missed and thus the bomb landed outside the house at the corner of the house, pretty much destroying the whole front half of the house and a good portion of the neighbor’s house, blowing out windows in nearby buildings, but leaving Councilman Looby and his wife alive in the back of the house.
I went out to look at this yesterday, though the house is long gone, and it is, at the very most, thirty feet from the street to that window. In the picture on the left, the guy in the foreground is standing in the street.
Also important for this–the internet tells me that a stick of dynamite weighs half a pound.
Now, I, as a weak person with no throwing skills, believe that, if I hung out of a large old car window, I could overhand toss 3.5 to 5 lbs of anything and hit that window. I also believe, depending on how far out I was leaning, I might have enough room to underhand lob it. I don’t know if I would be strong enough to throw it hard enough to break the window, but it’s a rather large window. I might not be able to get ten pounds from the car to the window, though. But a man could, right?
Now, if I’m in the car, it seems like the only way to get the bomb to the house is that kind of back-handed newspaper-delivery flick, because otherwise, the car is in the way. But even still, it seems like, if that went awry, the dynamite would end up on the porch.
Also, as an added factor, now the street is lined with parked cars. It’s not in the pictures, but obviously, those pictures were taken in daylight and people could have moved their cars out of the way before then. On the other hand, there weren’t reports of any destroyed cars.
So, my questions are these: there’s a huge difference between five sticks of dynamite and twenty. How much dynamite do you think that explosion was actually caused by? Does the “They threw it from the car” theory make sense? But if they didn’t throw it from the car, why didn’t they place it better? And, just for the sake of argument, let’s say that they did throw the bomb at the front window and it did bounce off and kind of roll to the corner. Does that tell us something about where the car was in relation to the house? In other words, can we guess that the car was headed toward 18th maybe more in front of the porch than the window?
Basically, dear readers, what do we see when we look at those pictures?
I have been worried that the spiral afghan I’m working on, the recipient of which only requested “70s colors”, in fact, was failing to look 70s-ish. I consulted with folks and we all agreed that the trick would not be just the colors, but how I used them. Still, I wasn’t sure. And then I hit this spiral:
That I remember from my childhood.
Also, just for the sake of being honest, I want to say I had a story rejected last night. I’ve had a lot of stories rejected this year. And sometimes a story I love rejected a lot.
And it sucks.
People are all like “What are you working on?” “What do you have coming out?”
Okay, well, I’m working on a huge story about people who escaped justice and many of them are vile and it’s very sad. And I have nothing coming out. Which is also sad.
But we keep on keeping on.
I went to see a friend in the hospital yesterday. It’s weird. Not that she’s in the hospital. That tends to be where you live for a bit after they cut you open. But that she’s my friend and I’ve known her a while and I’ve always liked her and thought good things about her.
But seeing her in what I know has to be a tremendous amount of pain already sitting up and walking around and tracking the numbers they want her to track and just doing it because it needs to be done.
I left the hospital and I had to sit in my car a minute just like “Wow.” I mean, I don’t quite know how to get at it. It was both extraordinary just on its face and extraordinary in how much it was business as usual for her.
It made me think a great deal about whether I always recognize the ways people are doing things that would, if I noticed, blow my mind.
Lord, last night in the middle of the night, I was awoken by new kitty just singing and singing. I tried halfway waking up and saying “Good kitty,” but then she got a tone in her voice so hurt that it caused the orange cat to leap off my bed. So, I was concerned that this wasn’t a loud victory song, but a song of pain and her own death.
I also then leap out of bed.
She’s brought a rabbit in the house to kill and eat. It wasn’t dead, but it wasn’t going to recover. I considered what to do and as I was trying to wake up enough to formulate a plan, she killed it.
I went back to bed.
I wondered if it makes me a bad person that I let my cats outside. I also wondered why a cat who can catch a motherfucking rabbit can’t ever seem to catch the mice when they’re in the house.
The thing about this research is that there really were conspiracies. But conspiracies mostly put together by angry idiots. I keep having to check myself because it’s very easy to imagine a vast, vast conspiracy of secretive brilliant people and I keep having to remind myself that the simplest answer is probably the right one.
But man, you know, too. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what the simplest answer is.
Here’s a thing I’ve been thinking about when looking at the Hattie Cotton bombing specifically. There are a lot of weird details–so, after the bombing, the guys who were driving around the two KKK cars the day before are arrested. Wire generally matching the wire used on the bomb is found in both cars. One car also has a huge stash of weapons.
Meanwhile, two KKK members have run to the FBI to tell them that they saw segregationist John Kasper with a few sticks of dynamite and some jars of nitroglycerine which one of them helped him hide in an abandoned house, but when they took the FBI to the house, there was no dynamite.
Also, a box of dynamite had recently been stolen, which the police were later able to determine wasn’t the same dynamite used in the Hattie Cotton bombing.
And the Hattie Cotton bomb was probably a box of dynamite.
So, the amount of dynamite that Kasper had was not enough to have been the Hattie Cotton bomb.
Also, Kasper had a lot of KKK friends, but he himself does not appear to have been a KKK member and, in fact, some leadership in the local KKK vehemently disliked him.
So, some folks believe that the two KKK guys ran to the FBI as kind of a sacrifice of themselves to focus attention on Kasper and off the KKK.
But I want to just step back and focus on what the facts as we have them, assuming all these stories are true, are. We have: the dynamite used to blow up the school; another similar amount of dynamite that’s gone missing; a smaller amount of dynamite Kasper had; two different cars with blasting wire, and a bunch of arrested by the police or detained by the FBI KKK members.
And let me be clear that this is all speculation and I’m very, very early on in my reporting, and I could change my mind.
But doesn’t it suggest that they may have been planning to blow up more than one target? That there was more than one bomb?
Another thing I find curious is that, in the early 80s, a woman with a 30-year-long association with the Klan was arrested and convicted for a plot to blow up The Temple here in town. Back in the 50s, after the JCC blew up, the “Confederate Underground” called a local rabbi and told him The Temple was next.
But no one seems to have made that connection. Which suggests to me that either they must have had a pretty good idea of who did the bombing and thus she didn’t need to be asked about it, because they knew she was/wasn’t involved, or they had decided the JCC bombing was unsolvable for some reason and thus didn’t bother asking her about it.
But it’s weird to me. If you know The Temple was on the wish-list of white supremacists in 58 and you have before you a woman you’ve just arrested for purchasing a bomb to use on the Temple in 80 (or possibly 81–I don’t have my notes in front of me) and all her friends are like “Yep, she’s been in the Klan for 30 years,” how do you not ask her if she was part of the group that wanted to blow up The Temple 20 years ago?
I finished the crocodile stitch afghan! I struggled with the ribbon. It took me ten minutes to figure out how to even open it. I was like, man, all my girl cred is shot today. But I like the little something it adds to the afghan.
I also really love the back of this afghan. I’m going to make a mermaid tail for my step-niece using this same stitch. I just need to figure out how to do an increase.
Meanwhile, I’m working on the spiral afghan. The first square in any new pattern is always a fucker, but by the end, I think I got how to best set up my stitch markers to make it suck a lot less. And I figured out how to do the border so that the raised stitches stay raised.
So, I’m going to do twelve squares somewhat like this. Three more exactly like this but in different colors. And then the other eight have the middle of the circle set off. I admit, it does make me a little dizzy to look at it.
Also, so many ends!
On Friday, I met with my therapist, which went well, but still took a lot out of me. I’ve only seen her three times, but I now know to kind of expect that I will sleep a lot after it.
So, Saturday, I wake up at 7:30. I take Sonnyboy for our normal walk. He somehow manages to get so tangled up in his harness that he can’t walk–and remember, he got out of the house, so it was on right when we were in the garage and yet, by the time we got to the AT&T yard, he was a mess. So, I had to wrestle him out of his harness and try to get him back into it, which he “aided” by repeatedly sitting down in the most convoluted way. But eventually, I got it.
We got up to the road and he almost immediately rolled in poop. Not on his back, which would be gross enough, but all up in his head and his ears and down his front legs and I tried to drag him out of it, but I am not stronger than him and that poop was, apparently, awesome.
He smelled so bad. It was like a mixture of regular poop smell with like rotting raw beef. I shudder to even remember it.
Then he went full-steam after a bird and got tangled in some barbed wire. Not terribly. But then he was limping and I tried to get him to show me his paw and he was like “And now I’ll just lay down in the middle of the road! Please do not look at my paw, I am busy licking it.” But then he got up on his own and it seemed to be tender but not terrible.
But so here we are, coming down the home stretch and who is standing by the tree but the little old lady he terrorized the other week and her dog who he tried to force to play with him?! But she sees he’s kind of limping so we exchange greetings and she asks what’s wrong and, of course, I’m trying to hold him back from her dog and her tiny little dog is like “Son, I will eat your face off.” And I believed him.
So, I tell her the barbed wire story and just as you would hope from any grandma-looking type, she starts to coo over him and she clearly wants to come over and pet him and comfort him.
But I have to warn her off because he’s covered in poop.
So, so much for making a friend of an enemy yesterday.
We get home and I am just like, I can’t deal with the dog yet. Oh, right, also because I notice on our walk that he is riddled with fleas. I mean, just riddled. Like that motherfucker looked to be hosting the flea circus family reunion. And I’m like “You have a quadrillion dollar flea collar and I pet you all the time. Where did these come from?!”
So, it’s not just a matter of poopy-head. It’s also fleamaggedon.
I eat my breakfast. I go into the bathroom to get it set up for bathing him, because normally the trick is to have everything for Sonnyboy’s bath ready to go and then you have to cajole him into getting in the tub and it takes half your life.
And I’m supposed to meet S. for coffee at 10:15.
But I wasn’t even to the point of getting the dog shampoo opened when I first said, “How’s about a bath?” and Sonnyboy came in and deposited himself right in the bathtub. From out of nowhere! Or, you know, somewhere in the house, but not in the bathroom.
But he doesn’t like to have his head in the tub when he’s getting a bath and his head was where all of the poop was, so, dear reader, I just washed his head outside of the tub and said, “Fuck it, I’ll just towel up the floor.”
And a lot of fleas came off in the wash, though not as many as I’d feared.
But I am disgusting now, so I text S. to let her know I’m going to be a tiny bit late because of Walkpocalypse 2017 and I get in the shower myself.
Problem 1 settled. Walkpocalypse dealt with.
But what about Fleamaggedon? So, I got him a new collar. I got him two new dog beds and his two old dog beds went in the trash. I sprayed down the couch and the Butcher’s bed with flea spray. And though I had been using Frontline on the cats, I picked up some Advantix.
Reader, I defleaed that mean old orange cat by myself. And he is still pissed at me. He spent all morning hiding under my dresser making mean meows at me. He did come out for breakfast, of course, but he was snitty about it.
New kitty, of course, didn’t care. Except for all the fighting and the killing, I’ve never owned an easier cat.
I ended my day thinking, “Okay, problem solved.”
But, like Jason rising from Crystal Lake, I sat down to poop before going to bed (yes, that’s TMI, but it also brings the day full circle, so I’m leaving it) and there I am, stuck on the toilet, and something(s) starts biting my legs. The fleas from the bath, who got caught up in the hair and thrown in the trash can are out for revenge.
It sucked, but I laughed. And sprayed down the trash can.
I like that the pattern is “You’ll get your goddamn ruffle but man, it took forever to do. Now all I need is to wash it and get the ribbon. I’m going for a dark gray, because I want it to have a tiny gothy edge, but I think you could do a really lovely turquoise ribbon and give it a kind of Miami in the 50s vibe. I’m also glad it’s as pink as it is. When I was working on it, it felt like a lot of white, but here you can see there’s not that much.
A thing I realize as I’m working on the project (sorry, I’ve switched topics here) is that the fandom analogy is going to be a lot more useful for me in organizing my thoughts than I realized. Because I don’t ever want to say that the bombings aren’t connected. At heart, they are all about integration.
But the Hattie Cotton bombing and the Looby bombing–at least as far as I can tell at this point–are much more similar to each other than they are to the JCC bombing. The Hattie Cotton bomb and the Looby bomb seem put together by someone who knows about dynamite with the intention of destroying the building (and in Looby’s case, killing people). The difference in the Hattie Cotton bombing and the Looby bombing is that the Hattie Cotton bomb got inside the building. The Looby bombing failed because the bombers who tossed the bomb missed the picture window, so the bomb blew up in the wrong place.
This–at this point, very early on–suggests to me a knowledge of explosives in the making of the bomb (maybe the same person?) but a less careful approach to the placing of the bomb (and this may be because a white person in a neighborhood where white people live nosing around a mostly white school is going to stand out a lot less than if a white person got out of a car in a black neighborhood to break a window and properly place a bomb. The placement of the Looby bomb may indicate a different bomb-placer than the Hattie Cotton bombing or it may indicate that the plan for escaping undetected was very different. But I suspect both of these bombings can be linked to local opposition to school integration. (Though national racists would also have been happy to see Looby dead.) And probably linked back to the same group.
The JCC bombing is different. The bomb was not as powerful and didn’t seem to be well-designed. There were also a lot of phone calls bragging about the bomb, giving credit to the Confederate Underground. And it took place at the very same time a Miami…and now I can’t remember if it was a synagogue or another JCC…but a Jewish building was bombed and in a two-week span where Jewish buildings throughout the South were bombed or had bomb threats made against them, many of which the Confederate Underground laid claim to.
This was probably JB Stoner’s group. And how much overlap would there have been with the group(s) behind the other bombings? Probably some. But I think there’s a slight philosophical difference in the approach. I think–and again, this is all very early speculation, just me trying to make sense of the facts as I know them–the first and third bombing were local people responding to the local integration situation, even if they were egged on and praised by national figures.
But the JCC bombing, that may have been part of Stoner’s regional campaign against Jewish people. Which, yes, also had strong roots in his racism toward black people. They’re not unentwined threads.
But the amount of people here in Nashville who would have had direct ties to Stoner–who wasn’t from here and wasn’t making regular appearances here (like Kasper was)–has to be pretty small. If the KKK had 200 people and Donald Davidson had 50 people (obviously, these are not real numbers, just an illustration), and the other “acceptable” anti-immigration groups had another 50, and John Kasper’s white citizens council had 15, Stoner’s group may have been 10, maybe 5. He allegedly had five people do the Atlanta synagogue bombing. He allegedly helped 4 people with the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.
That’s how he worked–he had a handful of people he trained and directed and then, when they got caught, he was their lawyer.
So I’m not sure at this point how to do it, but linking Stoner to people in Nashville should be possible.
On a side note, after the JCC bombing here, the rabbi who was called afterwards and threatened and had the group tell him they were the Confederate Underground specifically said here’s the escalation. They’ve been burning crosses and bombing empty schools and now they’ve moved up to religious institutions. They will bomb a protestant church.
And they did. Stoner’s group specifically.
This is also why I look askance at claims that James Earl Ray was not part of some racist plot. Who eventually came on as his lawyer?
And who had a habit of coming on as a lawyer for people whose actions he’d encouraged or led?
But if we can know that this dude killed King, can’t we know who bombed us?
I was determined to finish the little pink afghan last night, but as is its nature, it both moves very quickly and very slowly. The border has five rounds. Round one is just a single crochet. Fine. Burn through that in twenty minutes. Next round is the round that makes the loops for the ribbon to go through, also burned through that. Third round, straight double crochets.
Two rounds left. How long can that take? Fourth round–put an infinite number of stitches in each stitch. Oh, okay, then, forever.
Anyway, it made me laugh. I don’t know when I’ll be done, but I’m still hoping I can go buy ribbon this weekend because it will be done.
Okay, so on to the main point of my post. I got a lot of stuff for the project done. I had email exchanges with the SPLC, the ADL, and the women who runs the Jewish community archive here in town. I emailed the regional NAACP to find out if I need to talk to my local chapter. I emailed a guy at work to find out if digging into this story in my off-time was going to cause me problems at work. I’m developing a reading list.
I am, I’m sure, eventually going to have to interview people. But I want to have all my ducks in a row. I want to know as much as I can know before I start “Did you do this?” “Did your dad do this?”
But I now have a secondary goal. My primary goal is to say for certain who did this. But my secondary goal, which I think is almost as valuable, is to say for certain why these bombings weren’t solved.
And, as I was walking the dog this morning, a thing struck me. The law enforcement approach and, in fact, the way we still talk about racism is to view white supremacy like a gang. You at some point make a conscious decision to join. There’s some recognizable way you dress and there’s a membership to be verified. Most importantly, there’s a hierarchy that is knowable and orderly leadership which is obeyed. Therefore, if you can cut off the head–i.e. take down the leader–you can end your troubles with white supremacists, at least until a new leader rises up. From this viewpoint, running John Kasper out of town or keeping him in jail and limiting his ability to “lead his troops” makes sense.
But it didn’t stop the bombings.
And I posit that’s because white supremacy isn’t organized crime, it’s a fandom. Specifically, it’s the Confederacy fandom. So, sure, there are groups you can join to organize with fellow fans. But you can also cosplay by yourself. And some folks might want the full-on fan experience where they go to the place and do all the things with their heroes. But for others, they might just go to one thing a year and maybe watch the rest on TV. And there’s no organized hierarchy. I mean, do you know who the president of the official Star Wars fan club is? If you met him and he was like “Yeah, we’re all going to go lay wreaths at Carrie Fisher’s door, you want to come? Her daughter will be there.” you might say yes, even if you’re just a minor fan. But if he came to you and demanded you go to Fisher’s house, you might bristle. Who is he to order you around just because he belongs to an official group and you don’t?
So, if the people in Nashville who did these things are Confederacy fans, as much fun as they might have getting riled up by John Kasper and as much as he might instigate them to decide “tonight is the night!”, how does getting rid of him solve the problem of violence in the Confederacy fandom?
Obviously, it does not.
I’m having lunch today with S., the mother of the girl I’m making the pink afghan for. The afghan is 45 rows tall (90 worked rows, because of how the crocodile stitch works) and the last I counted, I was at like 26 rows, so I thought I still has another week or two on it. But last night I counted and I was at 40! And I was like, damn it. I could have finished this before lunch if I had applied myself.
But I did not. So, as it stands, I have just finished putting on the first row of the border. The blanket is hot as fuck. They won’t have to turn the heat on in her room until it’s like 24 degrees out. But it’s really beautiful.
It also has a ribbon, but I’ve not actually purchased the ribbon yet. I’m nervous about this ribbon stuff. Not the ribbon weaving part. That I can handle. But you have to tie bows! And S. used to work for Disney! That’s like getting your PhD in bow-tying. I’m intimidated as shit. I really want a picture of it all finished or I’d hand the ribbon and the afghan to the master bow-tier and let her do it.
This bombing story is making me so sad, I can’t even begin to tell you. It’s just shit show after shit show.
But where does it start? That’s the problem I’m having trying to understand how this happened and why it remained unsolved. Does it start with Ezra Pound? Does it start with the Southern Agrarians? Does it start with the people of Whites Creek looking out over the fields next to the creek seeing the man they knew was Frank James behind a plow and waving a friendly hello? Does it start with the sound of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s boots thudding down the hall at the Maxwell House hotel as he goes to his first Klan meeting?
When is the first instance of deciding to keep poison right next to your heart for use on your enemies only to realize later that you’ve not escaped injury?
There is a reason, I think, that snake handling and strychnine drinking remain a part of some religious services. A lot of people–a lot of people–have been hanging their hopes for a long time on the belief that God has promised them they can drink the deadly thing and it will not hurt them. That they can make themselves a poison to their enemies and yet not harm their loved ones.
And if the Hattie Cotton portion of this story has taught me anything, it’s that people pay dearly for the self-poisoners’ false hopes.