The Awesome Devil Poem Moves Closer!

Remember a while ago when I was all excited about the poem about the Devil I got to read? Well, it’s in this month’s issue of Apex. Fabulous Memphis poet, Elizabeth McClellan wrote it. You should try to get a hold of it, or talk your library into subscribing.

Edited to add: It’s less than three dollars, people! You could get an issue of Apex, a pop, and a candy bar to enjoy while you read it and still have change from a $10.

And I hear that reading it puts/removes hair on your chest! So, there’s adventure! Will you grow chest hair or lose it? Only by reading can you tell.

“What Do We Care?”

Oh, my dad.

Here’s why I love him. I was having a shitty day and I thought, “Well, this day can’t get much worse, I might as well call him up and tell him about the book.” And so I did.

And I said that it wasn’t autobiographical, but I was afraid people might take it as such and, well, the main character is raped by her Sunday School teacher and obviously I was not and he interrupted me to say “You have to write about what you know and you know about being a Methodist minister’s kid. Write your story how your story needs to be written.”

And I said, “Yes, but I just don’t want you to read it and think I hated my life” and he said, “What do we care?”

And I laughed in relief.

“We’re old,” he went on. “Your life is your life. Even if you hated it, it’s not our place to try to make you tell it different.”

“Aw, Dad, I love you.”

“Plus, you sound pretty confident we’re going to read it. Not if it’s any longer than your last one!”

And then he told me he was going to send me a story he wrote for me before my brother was born, so when I was one or two, about a little bird who wakes up to discover she’s a girl.

And I laughed and said I hope he’d left more good stuff like that in my subconscious, because I’m hoping to write more books, since I don’t remember that story at all, but here I am writing about girls who change into birds.

‘Dwayne’ is a Good, Country Name

Yesterday, my boss said, “Oh my god, guess who’s set to star in and produce the Charley Pride biopic and I went down the list of black actors I thought had enough clout to star in and produce anything and who looked even vaguely like Charley Pride.

I had no one.

“Not Denzel. Not Morgan Freeman… Oh, The Rock had a great opening weekend…” not even meaning him on the “yes” list, just on the “improbable” list. And she screamed, “Yes!” and I laughed with delight and I was still laughing when the Jimmy John’s kid got here and he was like “What?” And I said “The Rock is going to star in a Charley Pride movie” and because this is Nashville, my delivery guy was also delighted.

I went home and was watching wrestling with the Butcher and the Red-headed Oops-It’s-Not-A-Deadly-Heart-Condition-You-Have-Epilepsy Kid (who has neither red hair nor a heart condition at the moment. Do we even know you anymore, Red-headed Kid? Ooo, but did I tell you he finally found a job, too? Not that it matters. You would not recognize his non-dying, non-red-headed ass. But still, it’s good.) and The Rock was on and he was singing and he has a very nice voice.

The Butcher’s all “Didn’t he sing in ‘Get Shorty’?” and I said I didn’t know and so they made me watch Jonah Hex and I would watch Jonah Hex a million times over just to listen to the Butcher and the Red-headed Kid snark on it incredulously. The Red-headed Kid said, “It’s a much better movie once you accept it’s a comedy.” And I realized that John Malkovich had certainly accepted it was a comedy, since he’s so clearly playing Turnbull as a parody of Forrest Gump.

Anyway, that’s all a long digression to say that the menfolk were not surprised that Johnson would be Pride in a movie and that, this morning, I read it in the Tennessean–“Originally, Terrence Howard was to play Pride in a movie directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow).” Terrence Howard? Please.

Well, like I said to Left Wing Cracker, I’m about 45% convinced that Johnson will be awful, but I am 65% sure he’s going to be amazing.

When the Levee Breaks

Steve Ross has an excellent post about the flood, reminding people that, even if they are on high ground, they need to make sure their escape route remains open. No good being on high ground surrounded by water.

But I did want to address this part:

Last night the US Army Corps of Engineers blew up part of a levee in Mississippi Co., Missouri. They have scheduled two more blasts, but the second was delayed due to weather. I’m not sure about what kind of impact this will have on us down stream, but any effort to help keep the flow of water out of highly populated areas is welcome.

I said this over there but I just want to stress: This will have no impact down stream. The Commercial Appeal story explains why:

The levee-breaching, last done during the 1937 flood, occurred late evening after corps blast teams finished filling pipes embedded in the levee with tons of an explosive slurry. After the detonation, the river began eroding the barrier to pour into the floodway at a rate of 4.1 million gallons per second, creating a 200-square-mile lake.

Subsequent blasts today will open outlets in a levee near New Madrid, Mo., allowing the water to re-enter the river.

In effect, all they are doing is widening the river, trying to take a lot of water west, through the spillway, to relieve pressure on towns to the east of the spillway. Opinion seems to be mixed on whether this course of action in ’37 helped or not.

I know reading the farmers bellyaching about having to have some land under water so that towns can be saved seems, well, frankly, like they should get a grip. Our country’s farming is not all done in a 200 square mile area south of St. Louis. But I think it’s important, even if I think they’re wrong, to understand where they’re coming from. I think they think that, if people in Cairo lose their homes, chances are those homes will be replaced by flood insurance or some government program. No one really works in Cairo any more. It’s become a bedroom community and a dying one at that. If this just hastens the town’s death, well, it hastens the town’s death.

But, if they lose that farmland, even just for this year (and let’s be clear, blowing the levees means that), and farm equipment they could not get out of the way, they are looking at enormous financial losses. Their jobs and their livelihoods are gone. And then, if the ground isn’t fit for farming next year? People who managed to hold on even after this year will be done in.

I think it’s important to remember that a lot of people are feeling like “my whole life could be destroyed” and whether “life” is “where I live” or “how I make my living,” there’s real pain there. There are no perfect answers in times like this. Even as things are happening, people have to know that there’s probably something they could be doing better or differently. But what can you do?

Anyway, here’s Alison Krauss and Robert Plant singing “When the Levee Breaks,” a song Plant first did with Led Zeppelin, which was a reworking of an old Memphis Minnie song she wrote about the ’27 flood. I wish Plant and Krauss would put out a live album from their tour together. I think this is a beautiful and haunting version of this song.