“Just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world”

I have been thinking more about class, which I think is difficult, in part, because it does so much depend on location, location, location.

I was thinking about how our church used to put together these Christmas packages for folks who were in hard economic straits.  It’d be a turkey and cans of vegetables and stuffing and some kind of dessert and a present for each of the kids, so that no matter how rough a year it was, people could have Christmas dinner and something to open on Christmas day.  The list of people we did this for went beyond people who were “poor” but also included people who were just “having a rough spot.”  So, it wasn’t anything to load up a box that you then delivered to one of your friends.  And maybe this was because this was an old coal mining community with a lot of folks who then worked for Comm Ed or Caterpillar but it was understood that there wasn’t anything shameful about “having a rough spot” because anyone might get injured or laid-off and not be able to work.  There was always a sense of “and next year, you might be handing a similar box to me.”

Did that make us all working class?  I don’t know.  That was the best school system I ever went to and, if I hadn’t gone there for two years of high school, I would have been screwed in college.  As it was, I entered college a bright woman with, basically, two years of high school education.  But I came from parents who’d been to college and at least three of my grandparents attended college.  But I still got to college and felt for sure like being smart wasn’t enough, that I didn’t have fundamental and necessary cultural experiences.  I mean, people, I had never been on a plane until I was twenty-five.  The recalcitrant brother never has.  My international travel is Canada.

Anyway, I was reading this piece over at Inside Higher Ed (which I’m linking to in hopes you don’t have to be a subscriber to see it) which is an interview with Kenneth Oldfield and Richard Greggory Johnson about their new book about queer and working class academics.  And this part rang especially true for me (I’m quoting it at length, because I’m not sure if the link is going to work):

A second illustration involves the unbefitting feeling I get when I hear non-WCAs discussing how as youngsters they vacationed at the beach with their parents, shopped for the right college, or are helping their children increase their odds of being accepted at the right university (i.e. preparing them to get high scores on standardized entrance examinations and building a strong high school resume by participating in formally recognized and so called important extracurricular activities, including, among others, plays, the debate team, the tennis team, and doing volunteer work). Why don’t more university admissions committees extend the same level of recognition and respect to applicants who worked at fast food restaurants or gas stations during high school? In the education game, it helps considerably if your parents know how to “play college.”

A third class bias is one that I only fully appreciated after I finished my doctorate. It involves the information I wasn’t given in all my years of schooling, or received only in passing, as if it were not that important. Most of my formal education about class involved omissions, which still seems the case in too much of higher education. I was never encouraged to appreciate how much America is a class-based society and, therefore, the profound role class and class origins play in determining favorable life outcomes, including recognizing the strong relationship between family income and standardized test scores (ACT and SAT, for example), the number and condition of teeth you carry into adulthood, longevity, whether you smoke cigarettes, how much you travel outside your region or country, how many books your parents made available to you during your youth, whether and where you attended college, and so on, ad nausea.

And that first paragraph especially rang so true to me.  My parents certainly didn’t know how to play college and I certainly had little idea how to or even of the importance of participating in things other than going to school.  Shoot, when I consider that, I about can’t believe I even got in.  And then I feel a little strange because maybe I got in precicely because there was something about my application that said “here’s a bright girl who hasn’t had a lot of opportunities.”  I mean, my parents have done some crappy things, but they worked hard to give us a knowledge of the world, as much of it as they could.

I don’t know.  When I think about the thing I learned from my parents that has affected my life most profoundly is that they taught me, no matter what happens to you, you just have to find a way to take it.  This has, single-handedly, been the most damaging thing they’ve ever taught me, but I know it comes from a place of truth and love–that life is going to be hard and there will be forces beyond your control that line up against you and there won’t be anything you can do about it, and taking a stand will only draw attention to yourself and attention from authorities always goes wrong, so you just have to learn to take it, to find a way to survive and move on in spite of it.

And in my life, a lot of things have happened, both to me and around me, and my first instinct is never to speak up, but to just find a way to take it.  It’s one of the reasons that blogging has been, for me, so important–it allows me to speak up, to practice being the kind of person who doesn’t just take it.  But it means undoing a lot of conditioning.  Ha, not just me, but the seven people in this chair before me (to go back to Oldfield and Johnson).  Taking it is how we got by in the world, how we survived.  It is, frankly, the way of my people.

So, it doesn’t surprise me to see the Ghost of Midwesterners Past advocating that we just figure out a way to take it, with “it” in this case being torture.

What became of it? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

With new torture revelations coming by the day, we’re now on that path again. The left will yap about justice. The right will carp about weakening our national security. K Street lawyers will go orgasmic with new heights of billable hours. And in the end, perhaps five or eight years from now, some low-level schmuck will plead out to a few misdemeanors, while the guys who ordered the torture will walk.

You know it’s gonna go this way, because it always goes this way. So can’t we use all that time and money for something more useful, like building some kids a really nice baseball field? I’d be in favor of that.

Don’t get me wrong.  I sympathize with this position with all my heart, or else I wouldn’t recognize it for what it is–that same old Midwestern strategy of just learning how to take it.

But I can’t help feel like we’ve been trained to engage with the world this way not for our own benefit, but to make things easier for the people who have power over us.  And it’s hard to realize that, because it looks like survival, but in the end, it feels like eating other people’s shit and pretending it’s okay.

Eh, I don’t know.  I don’t really have a point, as always with these kinds of posts, but I still want to wrestle with this shit anyway.

Guts, Forrester’s Got ‘Em

Just got this in my inbox:

“With 20/20 hindsight it was not my best decision to ask Bill Freeman to serve as Party treasurer. “

It takes real guts to speak frankly about your poor decisions and to do so quickly and with seeming transparency.

Still not giving money to these yahoos, but it’s nice to see.  Other folks could take a lesson.

Just Goes to Show that the Universe Has a Sense of Humor

Wasn’t it just last week I was joking about needing that army of gay men to follow Lowe Finney around and clap and cheer when he acts like a Democrat and cough loudly and attempt to wave him off when he gets too far right?

And who just was made Senate Democratic Caucus chair?

The world is moving faster than my ability to accrue an army of gay men to do my bidding.  It’s not that I haven’t had volunteers.  It’s just that I have no way to provide them with provisions while they’re on my campaigns. Curses, foiled again by poverty!

Pretty Babe of Mine


Judging by the number of “What is that thing?  Are you trying to give me nightmares?” emails I received, I thought it was an appropriate moment to consider the lowly crawdad.  Here’s what I know about crawdads–no matter how much you might intellectually know that a tiny lobster-like thing can live in your yard, it is always startling to see them; people use them as bait; and people eat them.  They are also known as crayfish.

Why this one was wandering around the yard?  Who knows?  But, hopefully, he will find a spot in the creek more to his liking and eventually make his way down to Dry Fork Creek, which has water in it year-round, where as our creek does not.

And a consideration of crawdads can bring us interesting music.  From the distinct sounds of Jessie Mae Hemphill’s Mississippi hill country blues stylings (here), to Doc Watson’s country take (here), to Joe Turners R&B version (here), followed by a little Tennessee Rockabilly from Jack Earls (here).

I always think it’s informative to listen to a bunch of different takes on a song, especially when you have four really different genres, like here.  It’s like, because everyone knows what the base song is, you can listen for what each artist brings to it, for the distinctions.  There is no “that’s not how the song goes” because these are all how the song goes.

I don’t know.  It’s one of those things that makes me feel like this is the possibility of America, each of us doing our own thing, learning from each other, then doing something new.  Over and over and over again.

There’s some weird ugly thing in the creek.  What should we do with it?  Leave it or eat it or fish with it or sing about it.

It just makes me feel like, yeah, that’s right.

Mystery Garden

There are a whole lot of weird things going on in my yard.  Join me for a tour.

For You Dog Lovers

My friend Liz, who gave me the awesome lilac in my front yard, just sent me a link to this etsy shop that sells neckerchiefs for your dog.  I think the best part is that they’re designed to not tickle your dog’s ears–an important consideration when dressing your dog up like a train engineer or old-timey bank robber or just for decoration while she’s lying around the house.

Ha, I tease.

The best part is that 10% of proceeds from the sales go to the Stanly County Animal Rescue League.  So you’re not just making your dog pretty, you’re helping animals in need.

In Which Our Hero Interviews Barry Mazor

That’s right, The 9513, I scored an interview with Barry Mazor.  Every day, I cry bitter tears in jealousy at all the cool stuff you do and today, like Bob Dylan says, it’s your turn; you can cry a while.  (Yes, I am taking a moment out of this important post to talk smack about the one country music blog everyone in the world should be reading.  That’s just how I roll.)

So, this is quite possibly the coolest thing that has happened at Tiny Cat Pants in ages.  Barry Mazor, music journalist extraordinaire and author of the new book, Meeting Jimmie Rodgers: How America’s Original Roots Music Hero Changed the Pop Sounds of a Century, agreed to be interviewed by me about the book, even though I warned him that I am a giant nerd and would ask nerdy questions.

If you have better questions for Mazor or just want to learn more about the book, he’ll be speaking tomorrow Friday at noon down to the Country Music Hall of Fame and signing books after.  See here for details.

And, I admitted to him that I haven’t read the book yet, since I was planning on buying it tomorrow Friday to help the CMHoF keep their lights on, and he said he’d be happy to talk more after I’ve read it.  So, I guess what I’m saying, music nerds, is that, if you want to buy the book or check it out from the library, we’ll be having an informed discussion about it later.

But for now?  On to the uninformed discussion!

Me: Nolan Porterfield is one of the legends of country music scholarship.  And he has been, for a long time, not just the expert on but also kind of the fact-keeper about Jimmie Rodgers.  Like you point out in your interview with Peter Cooper, a lot of people are highly influenced by Jimmie Rodgers and don’t know it. I think it’s obvious that even less of his influence would be known if not for the knowledge and advocacy of Porterfield.  I know that Porterfield is very supportive and excited about your book.  But I wonder, how do you feel about stepping into the realm of not one, but two legends?  Is there a sense that Porterfield is handing to you some important piece of country music?  Like now it’s your turn to help keep things straight about Rodgers?  And is that exciting or a little scary or both?

Mazor: It’s been–and I raise this in the book’s acknowledgments–terrifically gratifying that Nolan’s been supportive of this project from the beginning. I don’t think either of us see what I’m trying to do in Meeting Jimmie Rodgers—delving into the story of his legacy, in effect, exploring the life story of his music and image-—as  competitive or stepping on his contribution of his definitive Rodgers biography.

I couldn’t have taken this ride if the facts of his career hadn’t been pinned down–and the amount of new biographical info uncovered since Nolan’s book was published 30 years ago is not that huge.  I include what’s been found and, yes, have gotten access to some material not previously available, but it was clear that this wasn’t going to be a new biography, as such,  all along.

But I’m not trying to be cute.  I hear what you’re asking–and all I can say, Aunt B., is that Nolan seems pretty happy that  after all this time someone else will potentially be an alternative  “go-to guy” on this subject.  People have been coming to him for comments and guidance on Jimmie Rodgers for that whole 30 years and more.   And, finally, if the subject didn’t excite me enough to take on questions and at least  little responsibility on the subject going forward from here, I guess I couldn’t have done the work to deliver the book. And it’s done!

Me: Speaking of legends, you just won the Charlie Lamb Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism (which, by the way, congratulations).  I love and admire your writing because you write in such a way that it always makes me want to go back and listen more closely to the music, to try to hear what you’re getting at or what you draw out of the artist in your interviews.  Your writing style seems to me one in which you bring the reader together with the music and the artist and you step back.  So, I’m curious, for a writer whose rhetorical strategy seems to be to make sure he’s not getting too much of the attention, what’s it like to get all of this attention?

Mazor: First–gee, thanks! That award is quite a surprise, and means a lot to me. Journalism is still most of what I do.  And bringing the reader closer to this  Rodgers musical legacy is  what I’m up to again in the book, so you’ve got me pegged there.  I do try to make my writing be about its subject, not about me all the time, which I would find a very limited, limiting and potentially boring focus—though, with the cheeky assumption that my turn on the matters at hand will be coming through anyhow.  But that’s a matter of writing style.  In life, I am prepared to sacrifice my unintentional near anonymity on the alter of massive book sales. (Well, massive in terms of non-fiction about music!.  Mini-massive.)

Me: Isn’t it Gayle Dean Wardlow* who talks about how, when he was out collecting records, the one artist he found in homes accross the South, both Black and White, was Jimmie Rodgers?  What was it about Rodgers, do you think, that gave him such wide appeal?

Mazor: Well, that’s my subject-, right there, why that is, and  what the effect of that has been.  I think an under-examined key as to why he had such impact, especially in the the small town and rural South is mentioned in  the book’s subtitle, my notion of Jimmie as a “roots music hero,” not just a record seller or star performer.

Jimmie’s own roots always stayed apparent; he was always “one of us,”  even as he got very successful, and that  made him a sort of unelected representative of the people he came from in the wider world–even as he brought that wider, modernizing world to them, in a digestible way. He set a certain mold there, because you can say that, to some degree, of Elvis Presley, of Dolly Parton, say, or of Sam Cooke.  They never walked away from who they were and who their people were, even with such expansive careers.  Audiences know it.
Me: Your book is about the influences of Jimmie Rodgers on popular music, even on down to today.  I’m wondering if you can help my readers know what to listen for when they’re listening to music to try to know if they’re inadvertently listening to something that has been influenced by Rodgers.  Are there phrases we should keep an ear out for?  Is it exclusively the yodel?  What should we be on the look-out for that should send us scurrying for a connection to Rodgers?

Mazor: Jimmie brought a host of subjects into play into American song and singing, which have been taken up again and again till they’re in our musical DNA–and  a performing approach that imposed his personality on whatever he touched.  You’re not going to hear that, replicated  precisely, in others, because the point was for them to do these things their way.  Musicians will tell you–and in the book, they very much do–that there are guitar runs, bits of phrasing, and also the tunes in those yodels (as often picked up by instruments as by yodeling, which a lot of people, of course, can’t handle or can’t stand) that hang on through so many musical mutations and genres.

A moment when I knew I might have a book here was when I was discussing Jerry Lee Lewis with Cowboy Jack Clement and he said, “You know, Barry, Jerry Lee doesn’t play exactly like other boogie piano players–his left hand is often doing Jimmie Rodgers guitar runs.”    So the Rodgers influence is not just personal, it’s also musical–and my subject is how America’s original roots music hero changed the pop sounds of a century.
(Again, many thanks to Barry for being so generous with his time.)


*My books are still in boxes in the garage, but, if I’m remembering it right, it’s in here.

Edited to Add: Sadly, today is not Thursday.

Bitterly Funny News out of the Publishing Industry

The Justice Department has some concerns about the Google settlement.  That’s not the “bitterly funny” part.  That’s the “ya think?!” part.

Here’s the bitterly funny part:

While Google agreed to share the revenues with the publishers and authors, libraries are worried that Google would have solitary and overwhelming control over access to “orphan books”—titles whose authors and rights-holders have essentially abandoned. Since there’s no other online entity with access to these abandoned books, Google could effectively raise prices for access to the collection and libraries would have nowhere else to go for them.

What’s so funny about that, you ask?  Well, where do you think Google got copies of these orphaned titles to scan in the first place?  I’ll give you a hint–it starts with “the” and ends with “libraries.”

Granted, it wasn’t all libraries.  The public library in Stillwater could not control what the library at the University of Michigan was doing.  And I was sitting in Charleston when the terms of the settlement were announced and, in my opinion, it was pretty obvious even then that even other academic libraries realized that a handful of the largest academic libraries in the country had signed a deal with the Devil that could mean the end of all of their existences.

But I’m still laughing a little bit because when publishers first found out about this academic library/Google set up and publishers said, “Um, excuse me.  There’s no interpretation of copyright law that allows a library to give our content to Google,” many, many libraries were like, “What?  We need digital archives.  It’s the wave of the future.  And information longs to be free.  So ‘fair use’ now includes us getting to let Google make digital copies of our collection.  What are you going to do about it anyway?  Be free, information, be free.”  Well, information might want to be free, but a bunch of folks, across the board, would like to be paid.  Including librarians.

And yet, here we are.  Having given Google the farm, it’s suddenly dawning on the folks that handed over the keys to the place that the folks who were complaining about the theft of their chickens were onto something, now that there’s no eggs.

Just Stating for the Record

Lydia Lenker from the Governor’s Office never emailed me back.

Oh, you know how it is.  You email and don’t get an answer and someone says, “Oh, no, you should have called.”  Or you call and they’re all “Who the hell are you?” because the truth is that you already have to be someone in the first place.

Oh well.

Oh, Plants

It’s supposed to rain on and off for the next week or so and I am nervously watching the garden.  It couldn’t be better timing, of course.  Get the garden in and let the rains come.  But I’m still nervous for the transplants.  I want to run out there every five minutes and whisper words of encouragement to the tomatoes.

Oh, tomatoes, I have faith that you will grow and make something of yourselves.

Three Things

1.  For the first time in my blogging career, I get to tell you that I am working on something so cool I about can’t stand it and ask you to be on the lookout for it, right here at Tiny Cat Pants.

2.  The poor dog has been suffering from allergies for days, then had to wake me up last night because she got her paw stuck in her collar somehow, and then, apparently when I picked her up to put her in my bed, I squeezed her in the wrong spot and she peed on the floor.  Since she is a good dog, she about died of embarrassment, though I tried to reassure her that anyone as sick as her who has an accident when someone squeezes her can be forgiven.  I am, of course, also trying to figure out how, if she continues to pee on squeeze (though I’m guessing this will clear up as her cold does), I can use this against my critics.

3.  The Butcher has an interview tomorrow.  Please, please, citizens of Earth, keep your fingers crossed.  I don’t care if it’s the lowest paying crappy job on the planet.  If it gives him gas money and the ability to buy groceries every once in a while, I will kiss the world square on the mouth.

One More Thing on Lila Rose

I thought this went without saying in my “evidence that the intake worker at the Planned Parenthood in Memphis would have immediately been like ‘This is weird.'” but Lila Rose is white.  And has a discernible non-Southern accent.  So, a white woman with a non-Southern accent and a weird baby voice walks into the Memphis Planned Parenthood and claims to be 14 and in need of an abortion.  And every Republican in the state is standing around yelling about how this proves that we need to defund Planned Parenthood.

First, it sucks that some zealot is going to get to lie her way into ruining affordable healthcare for the rest of the women in Tennessee.  Most women in Tennessee are never going to need to have an abortion, but access to free or inexpensive birth control, STD screening, PAP smears (without needing a sermon on the glories of Jesus)?   We need those.  And where do we often get those?

And second, you could write a book about all of the anxieties about “good” white girls playing out in this scenario.

But I want to talk just for a second about the thing about this whole thing that really, really pisses me off.  And that is Lila Rose’s (and most of her viewers’) assumption that she should be believed.

A white woman walks into a Planned Parenthood in Memphis, talking with a strange accent in a weird baby voice, claiming to be a 14 year old girl with a 31 year old “boyfriend” and she needs an abortion.

Each one of those things individually is not strange.  White women do walk into the Planned Parenthood in Memphis, though they are not the norm.  Women who have accents that differentiate them from the locals do walk into the Planned Parenthood in Memphis.  Women with weird baby voices.  Women claiming to be 14 who aren’t.  Girls who actually are 14.  Girls who are actually the victims of crimes.  And girls who need abortions.  But taken all together?

And yet, most people, when the talk about this, talk as if it is obvious that the woman Lila Rose is talking to should of course believe everything she says about herself and treat her as such.  And, don’t get me wrong, maybe that’s the case.

But where in the world does that actually happen?

You have to be the motherfucking Goldilocks of white girls to have lived that kind of charmed life.

To get to run around the country acting like, of course, you should be believed when you tell your crazy story in your crazy edited fashion, because… Because you’re “just right.”  Everything about you says “I have the privilege of being taken at my word” and then, when people do afford you that, you fucking turn on them, like they’re the ones doing something wrong, not you using your Goldilocks white privilege to sneak into where you don’t belong and try things out like they’re yours and run away the hero of the story.

Every day in this country women are actually raped and real rape victims have to listen to rape apologists talk about how you need to really be sure you’ve been raped or you might ruin some man’s life and make it harder for “real” rape victims to get the help they need.  Every day, women have to hear about the evils of falsely accusing someone of rape.

And yet, here is this woman whose whole act is lying about being raped and everyone in my state is sitting around talking about what a hero she is for supposedly uncovering a supposed Planned Parenthood worker who didn’t actually do anything against the law.

You want to talk about women who lie about being raped ruining it for other women?

Look no fucking further than the darling of the Pro-(Some) Life Right in this State.

But I guess it’s okay because no actual man was harmed in the making of her vast crazy lie.

Signs and Wonders

Last night, as I was coming home, Clarksville Pike was closed right at the dying Methodist church.  A big emergency vehicle was flashing and blocking the road.  I turned onto Echo thinking that I could cut back over to Stevens and around whatever was going on, but when I got to Stevens, there was a cop car with its lights on, and so I had to turn around, backtrack over to Whites Creek Pike and home that way.  As I was pulling in, I could see that they had Clarksville Pike closed as far up as Dry Creek Road.

It must have been two or three in the morning before I heard traffic again.

I don’t see any word this morning as to what was going on.

We had a fatal accident yesterday on Whites Creek Pike.  I hope this wasn’t another one.  It was strange, though.

You know when something final happens and you look back and you see all these signs–things that, with that person, should have told you this was coming–and portents–things that happened that might have been mundane, but in retrospect, seem to have indicated something was amiss?  Like, when your husband comes home from a friend’s wedding smelling like roses, that’s a sign.  And when the big tree in the front yard crashes on your house, that could be a portent?  But you jump to the most mundane conclusions at the time, and only in retrospect, when he’s left you for the woman who works at the nursery, do you say “Oh, so that’s what all that meant”?

There was something so bizarre about finding my way cut off and my obvious work-arounds thwarted on my way home last night–it was such a fitting ending to my day–that I woke up in the middle of the night convinced it meant something I was not smart enough to figure out.

We’re Number 2! We’re Number 9! When It Comes to Danger, We Think It’s Mighty Fine!

Via the wonderful folks at the Nashvillest and the charming Caleb Hannan at Pith, we learn that Forbes has ranked the most dangerous cities in the nation and Tennessee has made the list twice–Memphis at #2 and Nashville at #9.  As Hannan points out, we’re more dangerous than the city The Wire was based in.

And, frankly, it’s for this reason that I’m opposed to any gun control in Tennessee.

When you listen to why people in the State want guns, they’re saying a lot of things that we Democrats need to hear.  Why do people want guns?

Most people have some pretty ordinary and understandable reasons for wanting to have guns.  They want to be able to protect their families.  They want to feel safe in their own homes and communities.  They want to be able to feed their families.  They have seen what happens to people who have their guns stripped from them by the Government, that they then become easy targets for nefarious people.

I’m not going to begrudge the single mother in a shitty neighborhood in Memphis a gun.  It might not be a choice I would make and I might have to play all “But what if your kids find it and shoot you or themselves,” as is my way as a liberal, but I’m not going to begrudge her having one.

I’m not going to begrudge the man who takes his son out and spends weekends filling their deep-freeze with deer meat, meat they otherwise couldn’t be able to afford.

I’m not going to begrudge the rape victim who now has a gun in her purse.

I’m not going to begrudge the African American man who says, “Hell no if I’m going to let the Government disarm me again” when our State has such a long and ugly history of pretending like the 2nd Amendment doesn’t apply to Black people.

What I am going to do, though, is say that we, as Democrats DO BELIEVE that it is a societal failure that we’re at this point.  No one in Tennessee should have to live in a neighborhood where they are afraid for their lives and the lives of their children.  No one in Tennessee should be afraid to call the police for fear that involving the authorities will cause more problems than it solves.  No one should be terrified to think of how they’re going to put food on their family’s tables.  And we damn sure should be aware and ashamed of how gun control has been used in this State to disarm oppressed communities in order to make it easier to keep them down.

What we need to do is to hear what the gun owners are really saying and to show how our policies would help them meet their goals.

You know, if we have any policies that would help them meet their goals.

I’m still unclear about that.

I’m assuming that most Democrats see it as an abject failure that we make up 1/5 of the top ten most dangerous cities.

But maybe they don’t.

Or maybe I’ll break off into my own subset of the TNDP and say that, for the record, “The TNBDP is damn tired of talking about gun control and is ready to start talking about what we can do to fix our communities.”

Open Letters to Folks Who Need Them

Dear Times-News,

“Last month, the New York Times published a story examining the county’s economic troubles and its effects on both local and Hispanic workers.”  Really?

So, these Hispanic workers of which you speak don’t work locally?

Do they all somehow have giant robotic arms that allow them to live in, say, Nashville and work their arms so as to be employed in Kingsport?

You might want to rethink your nomenclature there, buddies.


Aunt B.


Dear State Representative John Litz,

I read that you say, “I don’t think the Tennessee Democratic Party that I’m a part of is like a California Democrat. We’re not baby-killing, gun-stealing tree huggers.”  And, yeah, fuck those environmentalists!  Environmentalists ruin everything.  Like, environmentalists get all pissed off when you dump a billion gallons of coal ash on a place.  What pussies!

Of course, we here in Tennessee see a billion gallons of coal ash and we’re all “Yeah, TVA, dump some more of that toxic stuff on us!  Our kids are nowhere near sick enough!!!!”

Okay, yeah, in all seriousness, you are aware that your state is home to the worst environmental disaster since Chernobyl and the main people responsible for helping us have been the environmentalists, right?  So, are you saying that you don’t think disasters like that are really a problem or are you saying that a few dead children are worth it if you don’t have to be associated with tree-huggers?

Just wondering,

Aunt B.

“But We Have to Be This Way in Order to Win”

I’ve been thinking more and more about this idea that a.) Obama lost Tennessee because Tennesseans are unrepentant racists (Though, let us note that at least the “Obama lost Tennessee because Tennesseans are unrepentant racist” argument at least gets us beyond the TNDP v. the Governor and his buddies fight which is “Obama lost Tennessee because Jennifer Buck Wallace ran such a shitty campaign for him here” v. “Obama lost Tennessee because the Governor condescendingly told him to get to Walmart and to not bother to come here.” Which, thought it sucks because it blames the voters, at least is an outward motion better than the circle-jerk that is the Democratic in-fighting.) and b.) some Tennessee Democrats have to act like Republicans or they can’t get voted into office because their constituency is so conservative.

Both of these ideas carry an overlapping theme–that Tennesseans are white and conservative.  That the Tennesseans that matter, anyway, are white and conservative.  The ones that count, the ones whose votes you court.

That, right there, is an attitude we’ve got to let go of, as Democrats.

Winning in politics is never about what most of your constituents are like–it’s about who can motivate the most voters to the polls.  It might be nice if it were different, but that’s the truth.  Can you get more people to the polls that your opponent?

Sure, you can continue to go after the “real Tennesseans,” but when you’re only thinking of “real Tennesseans” as white and conservative, you’re going after the exact same demographic that the Republicans in this state are genius at reaching already.

The Front Yard Irises

See what I mean?  In real life, that nandina is a crazy dark beautiful red, but you can’t really tell from the picture.

Hot Bee on B. action

At a less-classy blog than this joint, the title of this post would be a euphamism for masturbation.

Lucky for you, I’m just coming in to report that, while I was waiting for Rachel, I was lounging in the hammock and a bee landed on my toe.  Yes, my first instinct was to scream and shake my foot, but then… I might get stung.

So, I sat there, still as I could, while the bee just hung out on my foot and, after a while, it flew off.

I wish I’d had the camera.

Neither Here Nor There

It’s hard for me to talk about class.  I grew up on small Midwestern towns  and I felt solidly middle class.  My best friend for a while was the mayor’s daughter.  I ran around with the police chief’s son in another town.  (But I also ran with kids that “everyone” repeatedly told me were trash.)  My dad was a minister and my mom taught school.  That seemed middle class to me.  There were many years when my mom didn’t have a teaching contract, so she subbed.  And, in retrospect, it seems obvious that my mom needed to work for us to have enough money to get by.  And many months, especially when I was little, where we ate corn bread for dinner at the end of the month because it was cheap and we kids believed it was an amazing treat.

And then I went to college and learned what middle class really was.

And then I got a job and got a raise that put my salary above my Dad’s.

It’s a weird moment when you’re 28 and you’re struggling to pay rent and you’re eating rice for dinner every night and you realize that you make more than your dad did when you were in high school.  There’s not really any preparation for that.

But my point is that, growing up in small towns, there were class issues.  But the distance between classes was very small (even if it was, in many cases, insurmountable).  And all the differences we thought were so clear and universal didn’t mean shit when you went to a place that was 100,000 people, not 2,500.  So, I thought I was solidly middle class, but I had two pairs of shoes at any given time–every day shoes and church shoes, even in college.  And my prom dresses were either borrowed or home-made.  And I only went to one formal at college because I certainly didn’t have clothes to wear to it.

I was lucky I came up during the grunge era, because a girl could get away with two pairs of jeans and seven t-shirts and two flannels and no one thought anything about it.

I don’t know if any of this gets to what I’m trying to say.  Probably it doesn’t.

What I’m trying to mull over is just how a girl such as myself gets, in the same day, called an elitist and gets used as a local-color prop.  It both seems weird to me and exactly right.

Sunday Gardening Update

God, it feels like ages since we’ve had a good gardening update, doesn’t it?

Anyway, the garden is completely in.  The peppers transplanted just fine, but the tomatoes are moping around.  Though, I have noticed that tomatoes seem to like to mope around every time there’s a minor change.

NM has her tomatoes and she kindly pretended like she hadn’t left them in the care of the world’s worst gardener and this afternoon Rachel is coming over and I am going to load her up with everything else I have left.


Now all I need to do is acquire some hose.  Though, I have to admit that, while I was laying in the hammock yesterday, I had a brief plan to kidnap W. and make him come over and design a contraption that would suck water out of the creek while there’s still water in it and then somehow collect rainwater for storage for when the creek goes dry.

And don’t get me wrong.  I believe W. could make me such a contraption.  But I worry that it would cost me 5 times as much as what just buying a lot of hose would.

Anyway, what’s going on in y’all’s gardens?

Poor Dog

It’s been the kind of weekend where, when the dog is standing there on the sidewalk seemingly undecided about whether to come in or go pee or maybe just lay down and die, you ask yourself–“Is it possible the dog is hung over?”

Poor Mrs. Wigglebottom, she could not look any more pitiful.  Her eyes are kind of droopy and her tail hangs down in the most pathetic way and she is not that excited about raising her head too high.  And standing in the sunlight seems to leave her dazed.  Even now, she doesn’t want to come up on the couch.  Which is weird behavior indeed for her.

You can see why I wondered.

But then the hacking cough started.

Dear readers, I think the dog has a spring cold.

I want to tell you about her exciting day, yesterday, but I wasn’t here for the end of it, so I don’t know if it ended in tragedy or not.  But when I left, she had spent the whole afternoon…

Oh my god.  I can’t believe I’m about to write this.  I’m afraid to write it for fear that something happened after I left.

So, what I’m about to tell you, let’s take with a huge grain of salt.  Maybe things went horribly wrong after I left and since the Butcher is still gone from his out all night plans I haven’t been able to hear.  Maybe she’s moping around because she’s a mass murderer.

Caveat, caveat, caveat.

But by the time I left to go to Kat’s thing, Mrs. Wigglebottom had spent the whole afternoon HANGING OUT WITH OTHER DOGS!!!!!!! in the back yard.

And it was fine.  After a while, even, she got bored and spent about a half an hour trying to con someone, anyone, into taking her on a car ride.  Then she seemed to want to go in, but she didn’t want to be alone in the house.  But it was fine.

I don’t know if this is because these are the same dogs that always come over and we’ve always just made Mrs. Wigglebottom stay in the house, so she already knew their smell or what, but it was nice, and I hope it stayed that way after I left.

And I don’t know where the camera went or I’d post you a picture, because we went out yesterday to discover that the front yard irises have bloomed.  And they are amazing.  The bottom parts are dark purple and the top parts are lighter, with this yellow splash in the middle and the nandina, which I think I remember I told you decided not to die, is this fiery red behind them and it’s like…

I mean, let’s be honest.  I’m not that great a photographer and our camera is not that great.  But if it catches even one quarter of how beautiful that corner of the front yard is, I cannot wait to show you.

The thing that just kills me about it is that every time I go out in my yard and see something new, I feel like these people who lived here before me left me another present.  I mean, not me in particular.  That would be nice, in its own way.  But it makes me feel so warmly towards them that they left this beauty for anyone who came after them.  They or their nephew I guess, who didn’t just dig everything up in order to “clean” the house up for sale.  Anyway, that family.

That that family would have that small and hardy hope that, if they left this stuff, someone might appreciate it just makes me feel so good towards them.

And that it’s me who gets to benefit from it?

I feel very, very fortunate.

I think that’s the thing about a beautiful flower, when you see it where it grows.  You can’t help but feel lucky that fate has brought you to the right place at just the right time to see it.


Does having a blog I know my parents don’t read in which I complain about them make me the queen of passive-aggressiveness or not?  I wonder, sometimes.

But that doesn’t prevent me from coming on here and saying that while at the same time I am irritated beyond words that they want us to drive up there for Mother’s Day, I about had to drive up to Illinois today to fight with them about it, I’m so mad.

First, Mother’s Day is two weeks away and this is the first I’ve heard about this “you should come up for Mother’s Day” shit.  And they were just here last week for a whole week.  Okay, whatever, fine.  But I just took a week off of work and while they were here, they were hinting around about how they wanted us to come up for their anniversary.  And maybe the Butcher will have a job.  Holy gods, please let the Butcher have a job.  And it’s eight hours up there.  They say I wouldn’t have to take any time off of work, but driving eight hours after work on Friday and turning around and driving eight hours back on Sunday, especially with this “You could leave after lunch” thing?  Not cutting it.

But that’s typical for them.  That’s irritates me, but not enough to want to drive up there and kick some old people.

No, it’s that though the Butcher doesn’t have a job, my dad calls me up to tell me I must go to Aldi’s and buy a gas grill for the Butcher.  Does the Butcher want a gas grill?  When I got home and asked him, he said, “what are you talking about?”  Do I even know where an Aldi’s is?  No.  And what the fuck?!  Why am I going to Aldi’s to buy a gas grill for the Butcher–which he doesn’t even want–because my dad ordered me to?!

So I say, “I’m not buying a gas grill for the Butcher.  I have to buy two hundred feet of hose because you told me to put the garden clear in the back and when I said, ‘But how will I water it?’ you said ‘I’ll get the pump on the well working’ and…”  And he says, “Fine, I’ll buy the grill [and here’s the amazing part that made me about lose my mind].  You can get it when you’re here for Mother’s day.”

If a motherfucker had said, “Hey, why don’t you guys think about coming up for Mother’s Day?”  I would have said, “I don’t know.  That presumes that the Butcher still doesn’t have a job, which is so depressing I about can’t think about it.  And while we’re doing okay, that’s a lot of money for gas and stuff, especially if you guys want us to come up for your anniversary in June, when we just saw you last week.”  And then I would have thought about it.

But no.  Because he mentioned it to the Butcher at some point and the Butcher didn’t say ‘Hell no,’ he just calls like it’s a done deal and it’s my problem to make it happen.  I just fucking hate that so much.

Do you think the recalcitrant is getting passive aggressive phonecalls demanding he come up for Mother’s Day?  No, he’s got a job and responsibilities.  You know, kids.

And that’s what gets me.  Because I don’t have a family, my life here is somehow not “real.”  My work is not important.  I’m not really an adult.  I’m somehow stuck in this weird limbo where I can be bossed around, but the assumption is that I can and will go to any lengths to meet their demands, to take care of them.

And then I hate it because he realizes he’s crossed some line of decent behavior and he has my mom call later to tell me not to buy all that hose, but to check around the house first and see if there’s not at least some of that much in the shed or in the pump house.  Which is his way of trying to smooth things over, I guess.

And I’m pissed off, too, because I overheard something yesterday I wish I hadn’t.  I’m not going to go into too much detail because it doesn’t matter, but I’ll just say that it’s apparent that someone I really like and have known a long time thinks of us as “local color” and that knowing us gives him or her access to “authentic” people.

Well, it’s kind of funny, anyway.  Maybe I’ll see if being “real folks” who are related to people who don’t have jobs and don’t care (and how I wish that were true in real life, in a way), means I can bring moonshine to work and drink it when it’s stressful.  I mean, isn’t that what all the real folks do?


I know I haven’t blogged much about the Butcher’s situation, but it’s just because it’s so damn depressing and stressful.  I know it’s weird to say, but I kind of do wish the Butcher were okay with not having a job, because I really feel so terrible for him when I see how much this is hurting his pride and his self-esteem.  I mean, I don’t even know what to say to him when he gets down about it.  “Oh don’t worry, you’ll find something.”?  The unemployement rate for people like him, with just a high school diploma, is 15% in Nashville, I heard.  I honestly don’t know if he’ll find something.  And I can’t bring myself to lie to him.

Anyway, so that’s why I haven’t been talking about it.  Yes, he’s still unemployed and yes it sucks.

So, I feel like a baby for whining about how, since he doesn’t have a job, that seems to make my parents think that we can drop everything and spend my money on doing stuff that makes them feel good.

So, THAT’S the Point of the Grand Prize Game

Midwesterners of a certain age all longed to play the Grand Prize Game.  Many of us were even taken to The Bozo Show.  Some of us have not yet been allowed to live down their appearance.

But that’s neither here nor there.  The point is that everyone wanted to play the Grand Prize Game because at the end, you got a fifty dollar bill (later, I’m sure, it was a hundred).  I ask you, America, who couldn’t use a brand new fifty dollar bill?

Anyway, I was finishing off my garden planting this evening and all I had left was the big bed.  The big bed is broken into six parts.  The three three sisters I’ve got going, some cantalope, and two patches of fancy-pants marigolds.  This will allow me to rotate where I plant my corn, so that it’s only in the same spot every other year.  And so I dutifully marked off my six squares and then made three concentric squares in my three sisters’ plots.


Now, don’t get me wrong.  Of course I stood there staring at my concentric squares being all convinced that now, every time I see any concentric squares, I’m being cued in to some great secret of the universe.

But what I want you to see is tht all of the three sisters had some spaces that were hard to get to unless you wanted to step on the beds, which I really did not want to do.

And so, I had to put my toes right on the edge and lean ever so slightly forward and toss the seeds where I wanted them to go in the hoed out squares.  And as I tossed those little seeds farther and farther away from me, I had a moment of realization–THIS is really why we play the Grand Prize Game.  We’re reenacting this in game form.

And I felt as one with my ancestors.

Ha ha ha ha ha.