What Kinds of Things Do You Have a Right to Know?

My cousin A. and I were talking about our Grandma A. who is both of our favorite person in the world–kind, generous, whip smart, good cook, esteemed business woman, loving, etc.–things I think that we aspire to be.

We were talking about my Grandpa and I was talking about how much he adored my cousin A.  They babysat her a lot when she was small, she and my cousin J., and it was hard to resist her.  She was darling and precocious.

And my Grandpa loved women.

He didn’t really care for men and growing up male in his house was its own kind of hell.

A. wasn’t really aware of that.  She kind of knew, but not really.  So, we talked about that for a little bit.  And I explained to her that he really did seem to mellow towards the end especially towards his sons (I lied a little, having seen the video of him, even towards the end, berating my dad in a way that still makes me want to punch him).  And I told her that, for me at least, you get to the ages you know those folks were at and you try to imagine yourself in their places and you kind of see how someone like you, but slightly different, could end up doing wrong.

I told her about how my dad’s aunt and uncle took him out to the farm a couple of summers just to get him out of the way of my grandpa.  She told me how our aunt had told her stories of hiding on the roof, smoking cigarettes and trying to pretend like she didn’t know what was happening in the house.

And, after a few glasses of wine, she asked the question I have asked my whole adult life–my grandma had a job that made her a lot of money; she had a supportive family that knew what a problem my grandpa was; and she certainly knew what he was doing to those kids.  Even if they never got divorced, why didn’t she leave him?

I really feel like, because that answer remains unknown to me, some fundimental part of who my grandma was remains unknown to me.  How could this confident, gregarious, amazing woman…?

Maybe there is no answer.

We asked my aunt about our grandpa’s behavior, which she confirmed for A., who wanted to know why she was just hearing about it now, this far into her adult life, and my aunt said, “Well, we never told you about it because it didn’t matter.”

I’m not sure that was a satisfactory answer to A.  She really loved our grandpa and yet, I can’t help but think that it does matter. 

It seems to me that there’s a tendency among that generation of our family to want to make things as simple as possible.  Surely, they didn’t tell A. because she so clearly loved him and telling her would have made her love for him much more complicated.

But isn’t familial love complicated?

And isn’t sheltering someone from those complications actually denying them the chance to really love you?

Or is it just another facit of abuse?  Tell me the truth about how awful a person is (that monster) and I will prove my specialness by finding a way to love him anyway.

This is the other thing that haunts me.  I’m not sure I know how to untangle love from fucked-up-ness.

I was thinking, hearing about my other cousin’s pending divorce and all the shitty things her husband did, that I don’t ever have to get married.

I felt such relief.

Dancing with my cousin

I was thinking on the way up here about this idea that there are some places that don’t exist any more, at least not how you remember them, and I was thinking how tempting it is to just go ahead and indulge in visiting the place that exist only in your imagination instead of visiting the real place.

I don’t know if that makes sense.  I’m tired and hung over and I read it and get what I mean, but I’m not sure if it’s clear.  I’m just saying that I’m never not thinking about these people and places; I’m not often sure if I can bear to really come here, yet I feel like I’m never really able to leave.

This is what I want to tell you, that I was looking through pictures that my cousin A. had set aside for my dead cousin’s son and they were full of dead people in rooms we used to spend all our time in, rooms that belong to other people now.  And looking at those photos, seeing those people I’ll never see again in those rooms I’ll never walk through again, but people and places I know so well I can feel them in my bones, I can shut my eyes and hear their voices just as clear as day, made me feel, for a second, kind of out of time, like I was the ghost–the person with no place, hovering around the edges of the warmth of family.

And I looked up and my cousin A. has this huge smile on her face and she’s singing “Her name is Rio and she dances on the sand” and her hands flit around her face like small birds and then climb and dive around her body in time to the music, her arms like gentle waves.  One foot moves behind the other and she scoots across the kitchen floor, hips gently swaying.

“I loved Duran Duran when I was little,” I say, my hands flying upwards, two more creatures in flight, two more arms rolling like lapping water, two more hips swinging in time with the music, two more feet shuffling across the bright linoleum.

She smiles even bigger, looks me straight in the eye and says, “I know.  I remember.”

“You’re not checking your email, you’re blawging.”

Well, it looks like access to the internet is going to be spotty and, as long as I’m trying to blog here at my uncle’s, I keep getting interrupted by relatives shouting questions and smart aleck comments and telling stories about returning prostitutes to their rightful places of business.

So, all this is to say that you should, of course, check in often, and I will try to sneak you notes under the desk when no one is looking.

I Know There’s No Winning at “Family” but I Totally Win

The Butcher is all, “Now, B., I regularly get up earlier than you so I’ll just go ahead and get up at my normal time, take a shower, pack, and wake you up.  Then I’ll take the dog for a walk while you’re getting ready, because, we both know you’ll never be up as early as me, because I wake up earlier than you, because I rule and girls drool.”

All I can say is my butt was up at 5:30 waking his butt up.

Ha ha!

Anyway, yes, there is no winning at “Family,” for if there were, I would be taking Mrs. Wigglebottom with me to the Arkansas of the North*.  But, alas, I am not.

I’m sure that she will be fine.  She loves laying around the house eating, sleeping, and farting and she’ll be able to do all of those things in her favorite spot, which is to say, here.

Still, I hate leaving her behind.  It’s best for everyone.  I just hate it.

And I am tired, so tired of being so out of sorts and I see no way to get back into sorts but to get through this weekend and get home to my dog.

Really, there are only four people I would entrust Mrs. Wigglebottom to in a perfect world and one is coming with me to Michigan, one is meeting us in Michigan, one is with her family in Chicago, and the other is on his way to Wisconsin.

So, we’re going to the B team.

Please, World, keep the Red-headed Kid in your thoughts until Sunday.  Think things like “Don’t forget to go let Mrs. Wigglebottom out.”  “Spend some time playing video games and just hanging out at the house.  She likes the company.”  “Be sure to rub her belly.” and most importantly–“Hold on tightly to her leash when walking her.  Do not lose that dog.  Please, please, please.”

Anyway, we’re bringing the laptop, so I’ll blog when I can find the internet.  But it may be spotty at times.

Also, keep Plimco in your thoughts.  Tonight is the opening night of my play.

Break a leg, Plimco.

Okay, I think that’s everything.

Safe we come and safe we go and safe on our journey be.

Blessings good enough for Frigg are good enough for us.

*Michigan, I tease because I love.

Is Kleinheider Coming Around?

Today, Kleinheider says:

In my opinion, you are only pro-life if you believe abortion should be outlawed (with exceptions for rape, incest, life of the mother) at some level of government. You can be pro-life and not want a human life amendment to the constitution. You can be pro-life and prefer that the issue go to the states.

But, in my mind, you cannot call yourself pro-life if you believe that abortion should remain as a legal medical procedure. You just cannot. [Emphasis his.]

Is Kleinheider getting soft in his old age?

I’ve often talked about how we, as a society, tend to think of pregnancy as the proper punishment for sluts and how so much of the anti-abortion rhetoric seems to circle around making sure that women don’t escape the punishment that they so richly deserve.

How much punishment do women deserve for being sluts?  Kleinheider spells it out for you.

You don’t deserve to die (hence the reason for the “life of mother” exception).  That’s too far.  But you do deserve to be forced to have a baby.

How do we know this is about punishing sluts?

Because Kleinheider is willing to make an exception for women who got pregnant while not willingly having sex–rape and incest.

If a human being is a human being, from the moment of conception forward, there can be no exceptions (except, possibly, life of mother).  The ‘baby’ cannot help how it was conceived.  Rape and incest are no excuse for “murdering” a baby.

And yet, Kleinheider offers those two loopholes for women seeking abortions.


Because even Kleinheider is uncomfortable with women who are already the victims of crimes that might impregnate them being further victimized by having to gestate and, at the least, give birth to the child of her victimizer.

Now, if only we can work Kleinheider up to the idea that women are grown-ass individuals who all have our own equally valid reasons for making the reproductive choice we make, we might be on to a true revolution.

Nashville Serial Killers

Okay, y’all, so I’m sitting there last night watching CBS’s news magazine wishing I had a poker player next to me, because when the kid was all “I so didn’t stick an ax in my parents’ faces while they slept,” his eyes did something funky that seemed to me as if he was saying, “Yes, yes, I did and I thought they would both die!” when the news came on and Channel 5 starts talking about a serial killer along I-40.

Well, that will sit a girl bolt upright.

Sadly, the story was about 15 seconds long, which leaves me with a ton of questions, which I shall ask you.

For as long as I’ve lived in Nashville, I’ve heard rumors of a suspected serial killer who preyed on prostitutes who work Dickerson Pike.  Has anyone else heard this?  Is it true?  Is it just legend?

If it is true, do law enforcement folks think that this is the same guy as the I-40 killer, if indeed there is an I-40 killer?  Or are there possibly two serial killers at work here in Nashville? According to wikipedia (I know!), the FBI has said that there are probably 35 serial killers at work in the country at any given time. It would seem strange for Nashville to have two.

Is the I-40 killer only killing women in Middle Tennessee or are there other murders along I-40 that fit that pattern?  The investigation is surely hampered by how busy truckstops are, but isn’t it also hampered by the marginal stature of the victims?

One could make a good argument about how this is just more evidence that prostitution needs to be legalized and well-regulated, but I will refrain.

Beauty, the Beast, and Weakness

I’m still thinking about Chris Benoit and I’m thinking about how sad it is that, when a woman winds up dead, if you want to find her killer, by and large, you just start interviewing the people who claim to love her and the people she said she loved and looked for the one(s) who ever laid hands on her and that’s probably who did it.

Rachel has a post about a story from Maryville, about a judge who told a woman who was dropping assault charges against her now husband that she’d better not show back up in his courtroom “claiming the justice system failed to protect her, the next time she gets beaten.”

Don’t get me wrong; I think Rachel’s absolutely right to be disgusted with that judge.

But I can see his point, too.

Again, we tell this story about men–that they are monsters who just cannot help but stomp through the world hurting the people who are in their care.  And so we put the onus on women to be the civilizing influence in men’s lives.

It’s like we, as a culture, believe that Beauty and the Beast is not just a fairytale, but a blueprint for how we ought to live.  Men run around being monsters; women try to tame them.  If the woman is good enough to earn the man’s love–if she keeps the house just so, if she raises the kids just right, if she sets aside her career plans and focuses on making him a success, if she gives enough of herself and in the right way–he will stop hurting her and come to love her.

Her good work will earn her a love that she deserves.  And, if she doesn’t get that kind of love, she must not deserve it.

You can see how women get suckered into abusive relationships and why, in addition to fear, we stay.  That idea of being good enough, of being special enough, of earning the changed behavior of a dangerous man, it’s seductive and I think it makes some women feel powerful (even in situations where, objectively, they have little power)–“I can handle a beast no other woman could.”

Chris Benoit’s wife had accused him of being abusive before, even gotten a restraining order against him, and yet she went back to him–Beauty devoted to transforming her Beast.

Here’s what’s haunting me, though: all of the people who thought that Chris Benoit was a good man.  I’m not talking about folks like me, who just saw him on TV.  I’m talking about the folks he worked with, the folks he was friends with.  Did they really not see that side of him or is our definition of what constitutes a good man so far off the mark that it can include a man his wife was sometimes afraid for her life of?

I keep thinking of all the kids Daniel Benoit’s age, who, until last week, turned on wrestling and looked at Chris Benoit and saw a model for what a man might be.  A man who would kill his own son.

I’m not a man, obviously, and so I can’t speak for what y’all need, but damn, it seems like we’re, as a society, not giving you something you need.  Or, fuck it, is that more Beauty and the Beast crap?  “Oh, men, tell us what we can do differently so that you’ll stop hurting us.”

I feel this idea forming that I don’t yet know how to put into words, because I think we want to look at family violence in all its forms as something gendered.  But abusers can be male or female and their victims male or female.  I do think gender roles have something to do with it.

But I think there’s something about weakness, too.  I don’t quite know how to understand that–but it seems like, in some people, male or female, when faced with weakness, rather than protect the weaker person, they see weakness as an indication that they can do whatever they want to that weaker person.  Or, even more insidious, that whatever happens to that weaker person is either inevitable or that weaker person’s fault in some way.

Again, I don’t want to second guess Benoit’s wife, but in 2003, she was so afraid for her life and the life of her son that it came to the attention of the police.  And yet, she went back to him and, sadly, it turns out that she was right.

I would hope that, if most folks thought there was good reason to be afraid someone might kill their kid, they would do whatever they could to keep that kid separated from the potential killer.

But maybe not if you feel that you, yourself, are weak, that the kid is weak, and that whatever happens to weak people is somehow inevitable and somewhat their fault.

I don’t know.

And how do we combat that mindset?  That weak people just have to take what’s coming to them, because they probably deserve it?

If Only I Had Not Just Committed to Marrying “The Trailer Park Boys”

PeskyFly has a post today so genius that, had I not just decided yesterday to marry a little known (here in the U.S.) Canadian television show, I would have to propose to PeskyFly, or maybe just his penis.

Even after reading the post a couple of times, I’m not clear who exactly my crush is on.  PeskyFly is brilliant, but Lorrie Morgan told me his penis will make me feel safe at night.

Speaking of “The Trailer Park Boys,” I think I sense a theme in men I find kind of irresistible.

See if you can spot it.

(Though I am disturbed to learn that Alan Autry is some kind of homophobic mayor in his old age.  I’ve always wondered why Grace didn’t marry him; maybe that’s it.)

Ha, yes, just part your hair down the middle and feather the sides.  That appears to be all it takes.  Apparently, my libedo was formed in 1982.  Just stick a guy like that in a Camaro and the next thing you know, I’ll be spraying my bangs straight up in a giant sail of hair and aquanet, trying to get his attention.

Things that Made Me Smile Today

1.  Of course, my peeing neighbor.

2.  Watching the folks on Long turn the intersection with Parthenon into a defacto four-way stop when it was needed.

3.  Coming home to find that the Butcher’s efforts to clean the house has resulted in the house being dirtier than when he started.

4.  Most importantly, coming home to find the Butcher watching the Trailer Park Boys.  Yes, the Red-Headed Kid has procured for us three seasons of the Trailer Park Boys.  I love that show so much I am going to marry it.

Chris Benoit

I was working on a great post about the Constitution and what an evil Constitution-crumpling super-villain Dick Cheney is, but I can’t stop thinking about Chris Benoit, who, over the weekend, killed his wife and child and yesterday hung himself.

Chris Benoit was one of my favorite wrestlers.  I can remember when he and Dean Malenko, Perry Saturn, and Eddie Guerrero showed up at the WWF after leaving the WCW and how, to me, that really signaled the end of the WCW.  They were solid wresters, probably not large enough or showy enough to reach the top card, but solid, technically sound wrestlers.

That was back in 2000.

I don’t know.  I started blogging in part because I wanted to keep in touch with friends and in part because I was reading and loving these crazy ass wrestling columns written by folks like Chris Hyatt and Eric… I can’t remember his last name, but he was constantly leaving his jobs in various meat packing plants.  I would read them and laugh and get informed and I enjoyed watching them strut around the internet, picking fights and acting like jackasses.

And I think some of the attitude here at Tiny Cat Pants is born from the influence those writers had on me.

And yet, those were some fucked up dudes.  Who were writing about fucked up dudes.  Shoot, I dated an amateur professional wrestler once and even he was fucked up.

I think it must be hard to get up there every week and enact for an audience their most crude (and I mean that in the sense of being ancient and unrefined) fantasies and fears–that you are almost invincible, that things that would kill an ordinary person don’t harm you, that you are a big, strong man who can kick ass, that you can beat the shit out of the people who bother you, that you can earn the respect of your enemies, that your friends might turn on you, etc.

But not only that, you must always pretend to be that crude fantasy.

An actor leaves the stage and is no longer Hamlet.  If someone were to mistake him for Hamlet, we wouldn’t expect the actor to play along.  But a wrestler is expected to always be in character, at least somewhat and the lines between who the person in is the ring and who they are in real life are constantly and often intentionally blurred.

I think it would be hard to live like that.

You might ask around about the kinds of men who are abusive.  About how charming some of them can be, or how ordinary, how their friends and loved ones can adore them and literally have no idea that something is wrong.

I guess what I want to say is that it bums me out that a person who’s work I respected turns out to be the kind of guy who would kill his wife and child.  And yet, there is no specific “kind of guy” who would kill his wife a child–either the answer is much to broad too be of much use–husbands kill wives (but not all husbands kill all wives and not all wives who are killed are killed by husbands)–or too narrow to be satisfying–all we can say is that this husband killed this wife.

It’s just such a stupid waste.

Not Quite What I Planned

My Plan for the Evening:

1.  Come home.

2.  Drink until I pass out.

3.  Pass out.

What Actually Happened:

1.  Come home.

2.  Pay bills.

3.  Sit around in the dark.

4.  Learn that Mercury is in retrograde.  Rethink dismissal of astrology.

5.  Sit around in the dark some more.

6.  Fall asleep at some point.

7.  Wake up to the sound of my oven shuddering.  Decide neighbor must be rearranging his kitchen.

8.  Go to bed.  Again.  As always.

Why Can’t I Parlay My Influence into Smooches?

This tickles the shit out of me.  Turns out this week I’m the 4th most influential political blogger in Tennessee.

What can I do with said influence?  Let’s see… Okay, I will make three demands.  We’ll see if they’re met.

1.  Put a 4-way stop at the corner of Acklen Park and Park Circle.

2.   Give me as much consideration for Larry Daughtrey’s job as you would Bill Hobbs.

3.  Smooches!  Smooches for me.  If you see me out and about and you recognize me, heap some smooches on me.

The Book of Love

I can’t remember if we decided that Stephin Merritt was an ass or not the last time we talked about him.  I kind of think we decided he was an ass, but so were his critics.  Isn’t that how it is?

I was trying to find that Magnetic Fields song that goes “A pretty girl in her underwear/ If there’s anything better in this world, who cares?” and then “A pretty boy in his underwear/ If there’s any other reason to jump for joy, who cares?” when I accidentally found “The Book of Love,” which is such a beautiful song that I want to hear a choir sing it.

I like the whole song.  It’s short and sweet and I really like the idea of the Book of Love being just this enormous almost useless tome sitting unmovable in a library some place.  And how it contains all these things “facts, and charts and instructions for dancing” as well as having music in it.  And yet, each couple must work out between them for themselves how love goes.

And, at the end, when he sings, “I love it when you give me things and you ought to give me wedding rings.”  It just gets me right in the heart.

We’re going up to my cousin’s wedding on Thursday.  I really, really don’t want to go.  It’s not that I don’t think he should get married.  Shoot, I love his fiancee.  Anyone who drives my family that crazy should be immediately welcomed in with open arms.  And who doesn’t get a little misty-eyed and optimistic about folks setting off together in the world?

It’s just that Greg won’t be there.  And he won’t be there not because he’s hiding from scary folks who want their money or that he’s in no shape to come or that he’s out in the parking lot trying to talk the younger folks into letting him into their cars to “make phone calls” when really he’s up to whatever weird thing he’s up to.

He couldn’t be there if he wanted.  What a terrible fucking waste, you know?  Just what a stupid, stupid fucking waste.

We always joke that we only get together at weddings and funerals.

That “we” gets smaller and smaller.

That’s the bullshit thing about grief, too, you know?  That you’re sitting here six months later and it’s like your hearing of his passing for the first time.

I’m a mess.  I’m really sorry that I’m a mess.

But let’s be optimistic.  I just have to get through this weekend and then it’s on to Boston and no matter what happens in Boston, there are no dead relatives there, haunting the peripheries of all this family time.  Let’s hope things here at Tiny Cat Pants return to normal at that point.

Until then, let’s just muddle through as best we can.

Probably Not What the Southern Poverty Law Center Has in Mind

The nephews were watching two Chinese dudes cross the road when one of them started and the other joined in with “Hit the Mexicans!”

This continued until my brother threatened to smack them. He then said, “What the fuck are you running around being racist when you can’t even tell your races apart? I don’t want to hear shit about Mexicans when you don’t even know what a Mexican looks like.”

Needless to say, it was both funny and mortifying.

I don’t know. I just get bummed out when I think of my family, in their own clumsy ways, trying to instill in us this notion that people are people. And here, unless the Butcher gets on the ball right quick, goes our family line descending into this nonsense.

Is there any way to combat that? They’re so young and it just pisses me off that they’re already picking this shit up.

Mack and I were having a fight the other day about Aaron Sorkin* who, on one of his shows–Studio SportsWing, maybe?–, was having this discussion about how (so I guess it was Studio 60) this small town in Missouri or Kansas or where ever, you know, out here were we golly gee just don’t know any better but to be so gosh darn ignorant had banned their high school from doing some musical–Grease, maybe–and the show in the show was going to do some joke about this and then they found out that everyone in that small town works at a chicken processing plant** and that’s the only industry and these folks are just hard-workin’ god-fearin’ folks who just want to bring their kids up and so maybe we shouldn’t make fun of them.

Holy Jesus, this pissed me off. One because it just seems so patronizing to me. Oh, don’t criticise the hicks. They’re just hard-workin’ (etc.) folks trying to do what’s right. As if trying to do what’s right makes you immune from criticism. And two, look at what they think is right!

It’s not right to raise your kids to be afraid of being exposed to ideas that are different than the ones you hold. It’s not right to demand that your children be kept ignorant because that’s all you’re comfortable with. It’s not right to let your fear of art or the bigger world or whatever dictate what other people’s kids can do. And it’s really not right to ignore what people who dissent from your views in your own community say just because you think you have the line on what’s moral.

Romanticising what passes for “what’s right” out here in the heartland is bullshit.

Look at my nephews. That’s what half of their families think is “right.”

Oh, Atlanta, I pray for you to grow right out to the Alabama border. Shit, grow farther than that. Stretch out I-20 and I-85 and blanket my nephews in urban sprawl. Please let them go to school with and become friends with kids who are different than them.

I don’t know.

Aside from the fact that I’m embarrassed to know they’re picking up on that crap, I’m also worried for them. I want them to have good lives and I don’t want them to be limited in their choices.

At the end of the day, that’s what pisses me off about it. That they’re being trained to be reactionary and afraid, to view people who look different than them as remarkable because of it, and those attitudes are going to make their lives hard.

How do you counter that?

Can you?

*Note to readers: When around Mack, it’s just easier to pretend like Sorkin is a genius. No, I know, you’re thinking “No, I could totally have that fight with Mack and win.” You cannot. He will glue you to his couch and tape your eyelids open and force you to watch as much Sorkin as he has Tivoed until you’re, for some reason, compelled to walk up and down his hallway with him having rapid-fire exchanges about foreign policy, your love for a wayward prostitute (or coke), and how much bloggers suck while his kids run in and out of their rooms throwing in pithy rejoinders at appropriate times.

It’s not worth it.

**And is dying of TB, brought here by time-travelling illegal immigrants! No, not really, but wouldn’t that be great?

Edited to Add: Upon discussion with Mack, I want to say that a.) I was wrong for jumping down his throat and want to2_20.jpg publicly apologize; b.) He has a brilliant point, that one mustn’t let small town politics distract us from larger political issues and that we do run the risk of being grossly patronizing to small town folks if we only focus on their short-comings as if we are so much better; and c.) he is so awesome that the women of Iceland, whom he has never met, put up this statue in his honor just based on the legends they’ve heard of him.

In Your Face, John Keats

I’ll take you on, too, Jimmie Rodgers.

Although obesity has been linked to health problems such as hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, experts notice that among people suffering from the same ailments, those who are overweight tend to outlive those who are thin.

In the latest issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers in Hong Kong reported that elderly, obese people tend to be better protected from tuberculosis than slim people.

Edited to add: Folks, if only there weren’t time-traveling tubercular chicken workershere illegally from Latin America, we might still have Keats and Rodgers.  I demand you demand that your congresspeople address the problem of illegal time-traveling tubercular chicken workers.  After all, what good’s a wall going to do if illegal immigrants can just travel back to 1490, emigrate to what will be Georgia, and then time-travel forward, killing off beloved poets and country music singers in their wake?

Edited again to add: The last edit makes me laugh until Diet Dr Pepper threatens to come out my nose.  I acknowledge that it’s probably not that funny in real life.

The Random Facts Meme

The Archcrone tagged me and who am I to deny her?  Here’s the rules I’m playing by:

1. All right, here are the rules.

2. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.

3. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

4. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

5. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Eight random things.  Okay.

1.  I love smoking cigars.  Nothing makes me feel more badass and sexy.

2.  I don’t like tequila; I just drink it because Mack does and I want Mack to think I’m cool (because I’m a dork).

3.  I hate wearing shoes.  I would go barefoot everywhere all the time if I could.

4.  My favorite place in Nashville is the righthand side bathroom at the Ryman.  I love those little octagon tile flowers.

5.  Though I, in general, think religions are, at some level, silly and I, myself, have one of the sillier ones, there are two fairly mainstream religions in the U.S. that seem to me so utterly riduculous, just on their face, that belief in them, to me, indicates a kind of personal failure on the part of their believers.  I am embarrassed to have that kind of bigotry, so I’m not mentioning which two they are.

6.  I keep dirt from Robert Johnson’s graves in my bedroom.

7.  Non-drowsy cold medicine puts me to sleep.

8.  I think the perfect breakfast cereal is Corn Chex mixed with Kellogg’s Raisin Bran.

Can we nominate folks who just comment and don’t have blogs?  I want to.  NM, especially, but anyone else who just comments but doesn’t have a blog, let’s hear from you in the comments!

It Wasn’t All Bad

We’re driving up 8th Avenue South all tired out from eating and yelling at each other when the littlest nephew starts in about trying to figure out who’s the biggest because the biggest person is the boss (which I don’t mind, because it lets me be the boss) and he announces that, in North Carolina, his stepdad is the boss.

Then he says that his stepdad is twenty-nine and lives with his mom and the littlest nephew’s mom lives with him.

There’s silence for about a half a second and then there are three muffled “mrhawhwhaahahaha”s coming from my brothers and me.

You know, that’s the one thing, no matter how ridiculous your life if, there’s always some poor twenty-nine year old schmuck living with his mom and his girlfriend who he can never marry because she’s still married to my brother.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to think on that.

Do-Right Family

I’ve been trying to post all evening, but I’m still pissed off and upset.  I don’t really know why, exactly.  I just am.

And usually, I’d write one of my great epic posts about how fucked up things are and why I think they’re fucked up and what my place in the fucked up realm of things is, but the truth is that I really don’t give a shit.

Because here’s the truth of it: I come from fucked up people.  Generations of fucked up people who fuck up each other and fuck up themselves.  And, as long as we continue to have children, we will continue our ways, because we are fucked up.

I, too, am fucked up.  And no amount of nagging or pressure or scrutiny or “I know you don’t like it when we talk about this but we need to talk about it for your own good” bullshit is going to change that.

In fact, it’s just going to piss me off, because who are you, fucked up people, to try to change me?  Talk about me keeping my house in order?  Get your own house in order, first, bubs.

Ha, yeah, whatever.

I’m going to bed, again.  As usual.

Trade Me Places

My family has been in town six hours, two of which I managed to avoid by pretending I had to stay here while they swam at the hotel because the recalcitrant brother was lost and might at any moment call and need directions.

In the time that they’ve been here, we’ve discussed why my house is so dirty, whether my toilets could be cleaner, if I’m doing enough to keep the tub from clogging, why they have to wait for me to do the dishes, whether it’s okay to put Diet Dr Pepper on the laptop, why they have to play shitty video games and can’t they get on the computer instead, whether I’m going to the doctor enough or at all or whether it’s rude for me to refuse to talk to them about it, doesn’t matter, they will explain to the kids how I should be going to the doctor twice a year since I refuse to discuss it, whether I’m overdressed for CiCi’s Pizza, if I have quarters, whether they can take my car down to the Brewhouse, whether they can’t just stay here, if I’m doing enough to prepare just in case I lose my job, whether I’m doing enough to make sure the Butcher gets his act together, whether I’m gaining weight, if I seem to be losing weight in a way that suggests I’m sickly, why I don’t buy the same lightbulbs they do, whether they should bring me their old lightbulbs, if there’s anything to drink in the fridge, why my neighbor’s wife left him, if she was indeed his wife, what Mexican dish has cheese and butter in it, whether you’re supposed to eat the corn husks on tamales, if it’s okay that the littlest nephew only wears muscle shirts, why he can’t sit next to me in the van, and so on.

Emotionally, it’s a little like standing in front of a firehose when someone turns it on.  Or like standing on stage and having everyone just hurl whatever they can think to say about you for better or for worse up at you.

It makes me feel just about done with people, let me tell you.


I’m going to bed.

If You Want to Ride It, Got to Ride It Like You Find It

I finished my guide to Illinois for Mack’s kids and put them together a kick-ass CD of songs that remind me of Illinois for them to listen to on the ride.  I’ve got “Authority Song” and “Pink Houses” by John Mellencamp, “Rock Island Line” by Leadbelly, “City of New Orleans” by Arlo Guthrie, “Sweet Home Chicago” by Robert Johnson, “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” by Duke Ellington, “Illinois Blues” by Skip James, “Lake Shore Drive” by Aliotta, Haynes, Jeremiah (I guess, I don’t know how you hippies made sense of that name), “Route 66” by the Rolling Stones, and “I Ride an Old Paint” by Carl Sandburg.

I was surprised to find that listening to “City of New Orleans” made me cry.  I think it just reminds me of my grandfathers and how the railroad allowed a lot of the men in my family good livings to provide for their families and how that kind of career is passing away, if not gone.

I can remember when I was little, taking my Grandpa Bob to my music teacher and telling him, excitedly, how we’d learned to sing the “Rock Island Line.”  He worked for the Rock Island, first in Chicago and then, for all my life, out in Rock Island.  Once, we even got to get up in the engine.

He was a good grandpa, Grandpa Bob.  He would take us to the park to play baseball or go sledding in the winter and he always seemed genuinely delighted with us.  He was outdoorsy and had intended on being a park ranger.  He even went to college before the war down in Mississippi to learn forestry.

Ah, well, I guess it doesn’t matter.

I was looking on wikipedia about “The Rock Island Line” and it says the following

While it is claimed that the song refers to the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, the song is considerably older than the first recording, and from some of the lyrics it can be interpreted that the “railroad” referred-to is actually the Underground Railroad, a slave escape route.

While there were other points where underground railroad routes converged further south, these were not as safe as Rock Island, Illinois, since pro-slavery sympathies were higher further south, such as at the confluences of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and of the Mississippi, Illinois, and Missouri rivers at St. Louis.

By contrast, anti-slavery sentiment was higher in Rock Island, and freight and passengers headed North could continue on up the Mississippi River, or could continue north-east up the Rock River, or could travel east on the Rock Island railroad in early years. This hypothesis is supported by the fact that the lyrics specifically mention that the railroad entered New Orleans, a point never served directly by the Rock Island Railroad, and that code words used on the Underground Railroad pervade the song’s lyrics.

Isn’t that cool? But it seems entirely plausible that the song was written about the actual Rock Island line.  The Rock Island was, as early as 1905 attempting to buy track or right of way that would reach New Orleans from Little Rock.  Before the Civil War, the Rock Island was a small railroad that ran from Illinois into Iowa.

I’m not a slaveholder, obviously, but it’s one thing to posit that songs like “Steal Away” or “Follow the Drinking Gourd” might have been secret Underground Railroad songs, but, if you have something called “the Underground Railroad” and you have your slaves singing about taking a railroad from New Orleans–a railroad that, at the time, doesn’t go to New Orleans, and is located in the free North–and the gist of the song is how the engineer claims to be carrying one thing but is really carrying another, it’s hard for me to believe that that’s not too close to obvious.

I mean, shoot, in that case, why not just come out and sing “I’m running away this evening.  I’m running away up north.  I’ll take what I can carry, but don’t look here for me no more”?

Like Uncle Walt, I Contain Multitudes

Lil’ Pasture* tried to call me out yesterday.

I would caution, however, that this system only works when there is a benevolent, homogeneous ingroup in charge. Something that wouldn’t be possible if other aspects of her ideology were carried out.

For there to us an us there has to be a them. It just doesn’t seem in keeping with enlightened progressive feminism, in my view, even on a provisional basis.

Donna Locke, in the comments, tries to school me about immigration:

Our legal-immigration system is in a mess because we are taking in and trying to process far, far more people than the system or we can handle. That should be a clue, an alarm, to any thinking American. Our traditional immigration levels, preceding the past 30 years, were far lower. The current massive numbers have defeated our traditional assimilation model. That is why we see everything repeated in Spanish now, and it includes more than the loss of our common language. The problem is not our immigration system. The problem is the numbers that are coming in and overwhelming it.

Then, y’all, Glen Dean is boo-hooing that we Lefties are calling anti-immigration folks xenophobic, racist, and nativist:

Do Mike and his friends, like commenter Ginger, really believe that every one who opposes illegal immigration is a hate filled racist? If they do believe that, no wonder they are so angry.


After hearing this story yesterday, I reacted like most people. A very bright young student, a track star at TSU, and a future law school student, was killed yesterday by a drunk driver. That alone is enough to leave you bothered. Every life is valuable regardless of one’s potential, but it especially hurts when an all American girl like this has her life cut short. Maybe we are wrong to seemingly put more value on this young lady’s life than others. I don’t know, but that’s not the point. The point is, a young person was killed by a drunk driver.

Y’all, seriously. Is it any wonder that, when someone like Mack comes along and just cuts through the crap, my reaction is so over the top? Thank god someone is just willing to say it like it is.

Let’s just take a side-track. First, I’d like to say how much I love Biblegateway.com and how handy it is for me to have a bunch of different translations of the Bible at my finger tips, but also how frustrating it is when you have a piece of something, say a Psalm, memorized and you go to look it up and it’s not how you remember it and so you have to spend ten minutes you’d otherwise spend on a perfectly good rant trying to find the exact translation you want. In my case, Psalm 62, English Standard Version, “For God alone, my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He is my rock and my salvation, my fortress. I shall not be greatly shaken.”

Isn’t that nice? I was looking for the next part, “How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?” because I was going to work it into my rant about how ridiculous building a wall between here and Mexico is**, but I don’t think it really fits. Still, I didn’t want to not mention it, because Biblegateway is so damn cool.

Okay let’s get back to the points I want to make.

1. Glen Dean

The Random House dictionary defines “nativism” as “the policy of protecting the interests of native inhabitants against those of immigrants.” The American Heritage dictionary defines it as “A sociopolitical policy, especially in the United States in the 19th century, favoring the interests of established inhabitants over those of immigrants.” and “The reestablishment or perpetuation of native cultural traits, especially in opposition to acculturation.”

Glen Dean says, “Every life is valuable regardless of one’s potential, but it especially hurts when an all American girl like this has her life cut short. Maybe we are wrong to seemingly put more value on this young lady’s life than others.” [Various emphases mine]

Glen, hello, that is the text book definition of nativism–putting more value on this girl’s life BECAUSE SHE IS AN AMERICAN/favoring the interests of established inhabitants over those of immigrants. That is it. What you’re saying is nativist.

Calling you out on that makes people like me seem angry? Whatever.

If anything, we’re exasperated that y’all don’t seem to have the ability to type “dictionary.com” into your browser before you start complaining about being called nativist. I mean, not to skip ahead, but look at what Donna Locke says–“The current massive numbers have defeated our traditional assimilation model. That is why we see everything repeated in Spanish now, and it includes more than the loss of our common language.” Now look at the second American Heritage definition of nativism, “The reestablishment or perpetuation of native cultural traits, especially in opposition to acculturation.”

I can’t spell it out for you any more clearly. Donna Locke is a nativist. She advances the idea of the perpetuation of native cultural traits (“traditional assimilation models,” “our common language”), especially in opposition to acculturation (she doesn’t like seeing everything also in Spanish now).

Are all nativists xenophobic racists? No, but y’all have a long history of walking arm and arm with them***.

2. Donna Locke

Donna, for starters, you’re operating under the premise that our immigration system is somehow not troubled by the same bureaucratic nightmares of other government agencies. As nm and gandolph mantooth explained yesterday, it’s a nightmare that doesn’t work well for anyone.

You’re an intelligent woman and so I know you get this and so I am loathe to spell it out for you again, but here goes. The system is broken. They can’t even get as many new people as we need in the country into the country with anything approaching competancy. People who are in the system cannot navigate the system because the system is a nightmare.

This has nothing to do with the people who are here illegally, because they are, by definition, here illegally and therefore not in the system. We could have four billion people here illegally and they would be no strain on the immigration system because they have, by definition, bypassed the immigration system.

So, that is one issue. The immigration system needs to be fixed and it needs to be fixed in such a way that people can move through it efficiently, that the numbers of people who come in are equal to the needs we have, and that people who are criminals–like Victor Benitez, when they are identified–serve time (if they’ve committed a crime here) and then are deported.

Right now, though, Immigration cannot process the number of people we need in the ways that we need them. That also must be reformed. If we need a great many unskilled workers, then Immigration guidelines must be changed to let those folks get here with relative ease.

And, if we’ve encouraged folks to come here in ways that circumvent Immigration, because Immigration would not let them in in the first place, we owe it to them to help them get right with the Law.

Right now, we have a situation where there are, for all practical purposes, no slots for unskilled workers and yet businesses all over this country have said, “Well, if you can get here, you can have a job.” There is no legal way for them to take those jobs. And yet those jobs are being offered to them.

We can either start shutting down American businesses who offer jobs to folks who cannot legally take them (and good luck with that) or we can acknowledge that our Immigration system is so broken that, even normally law-abiding businesses must circumvent it in order to do business and fix the system and make a way for folks who are here to be here legally.

This is especially important because many of them have children who are U.S. citizens and we have an obligation to them, if not to their parents, to watch out for them (see, even I can be slightly nativist).

But, second, Donna, and perhaps more importantly, I come from rural America. And I have lived in little towns where church records were still kept in German or where grandmas still spoke Italian. I have lived near enough to Chicago to tell you that there are high schools in Chicago that have English, Spanish, Polish, and Greek signs that point you places. There are neighborhoods in Chicago where you might never hear English all day.

And it can be a little weird, to be in a country you know is ostensibly English-speaking and walk into stores and have to wait for a seven year old kid to come and translate your needs for you.

And I’ll even admit that it can be scary.

But it’s not the end of the world. It’s also exciting and vibrant. And, if you’ve ever been to Chicago on, say, St. Patrick’s Day or over the 4th, to see all these different folks come together to celebrate and enjoy each others’ company, it’s awe-inspiring.

It makes me proud to be an American, that we can be so different and yet all fit under the term “American.” Not because we’ve all assimilated; not because we all speak English; but because we’re all here.

That’s it. That’s all it takes. Just show up.

If that doesn’t inspire Whitman-esque love for this great place, I don’t know what will.

What I want to say to you is that the future you fear is coming. You might be able to hold it off for a little bit, but it’s coming.

You can either continue to be afraid or you can learn to embrace it. But I honestly don’t see how, without resorting to being something that is truly un-American, you can stop it.

3. Lil’ Pasture

You’re so cute. What can I say? I have a couple of visions of how the world should work and those visions don’t work together. Doesn’t mean I’m wrong, just means I’ve thrown my lot in with the poets and the angel-headed hipsters.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops.

*I try, out of respect to him, to remember not to use his immigrant name.

**I mean, seriously, first, who’s going to build the wall? Second, we’re communist Germany now? You’d think all those Reagan-lovers would be a little nervous about acting like a bunch of communists, but I guess not.

***Again, I know, y’all don’t believe in history or being obligated by it, but I don’t know how else to explain to you our reticence to assume that nativists aren’t motivated by racism or xenophobia.