Things I Think I Know Now from My Trip to the TSLA

One is that I, and many others, may be suffering from “Jesus’ followers were lowly fisherman” syndrome when it comes to Timothy Demonbreun. You know where we all are like “Jesus’ disciples were lowly fishermen” when, really, they were obviously at least middle-class if not better off? (Think of it this way. Do the disciples seem to lack for money? Does Jesus sit around telling stories about what poor people need to do or does he tell stories about what his listeners need to do? And who were is listeners? After Jesus died, the disciples had jobs to return to. After Jesus was resurrected, he goes out and knows right where to find them so that he can cook them breakfast. None of them have had to go in search of other fishing crews to get in with. Because they owned the boats. It was more cost-effective for them to be on the boats working, but the boats could and did go out without them and they still got paid. Whew, that was a diversion. Back to Tim.)

So, Tim. Yes, there’s a way in which so much of the Nashville rhetoric around him is of the lowly fur trader who was holed up in a cave when white people got here. But the truth is that, if you look beyond Nashville sources, Demonbreun was a semi-retired politician, who was still kind of acting as a diplomat when it suited him. Even some of the accounts of his fur trading, you see he wasn’t the lone long-hunter we’ve imagined, though he does often seem to come to the Nashville area alone. Other times he has almost twenty men with him or three or four other men.

For me, yesterday, what occurred to me is that, at the trading with the Indians level, Demonbreun is not like the guy who sets up an awning and tries to sell you socks out of the trunk of his car. He’s like Walmart, coming into your area, seeming like a stop you have to make, even if you don’t like it, just because they have so much shit. And the folks here don’t maybe mind one Walmart–though some see it rightly as a threat to other stores–but maybe they don’t want twenty.

So, if you imagine that Bill Clinton ran the Nashville area Walmarts, I think you get a better idea of the Demonbreun dynamic in pre- and early-Nashville. We’ve reduced him down to the eccentric guy who was selling socks out of his trunk, but he was really plugged into a lot of stuff. So, my god, of course this is why they’re showing him off to the guy who would become king of France and Lafayette. It’s not just “Oh, look, we’ve got a guy who can speak French.” If, in our analogy, Putin showed up in Nashville tomorrow, we’d haul out Bill Clinton to meet with him, just to show off that we’re important enough that Bill Clinton lives here and is banging all our wives.

Second, but tied into that last point, this also explains a.) why Provine found evidence that Deraque was staying with Demonbreun. I mean, yes, Demonbreun owned a tavern (though technically… see point three), but so did other people. But if Fagot was his area’s Walmart and Demonbreun was or had been this area’s Walmart and it was along those connections political decisions were made, of course Fagot is going to send his man Deraque to stay with Demonbreun.

Third, Elizabeth owned Demonbreun’s tavern! For two years. That’s Lot 45. I’m going to bet you she ran that thing the whole time he was off playing “I’m kind of a diplomat.” (Oh, damn it, now I wish I’d paid closer attention to whether there was a date on the ad he ran looking to buy or rent a black woman to run the kitchen. I’d be curious to know if he was filling Elizabeth’s shoes after she married Joseph.)

Oh, fourth, I did learn where Granny Rat’s tavern was and it was not where I was speculating–on Eaton’s Creek Road–but was, indeed, right where I’d decided it wasn’t. It was on the Clarksville Road, right at the place where the road to Springfield branches off. In other words, it was right the fuck here, where the Anderson and Garrett Funeral home is up in Joelton. The old stories about being able to see the foundation of the tavern in the grass of the funeral home are around and I just should have Occomed that crap.

It was, they said, just an enormous old stone building with good barns for horses out back. I’m imagining something like Rock Castle is old and stone, right? The thing that struck me about both descriptions of it is that they both said that it was enormous, like surprisingly enormous.

But I think she sold the place after Deraque died (around 1808 or a little later). Maybe it was too much for one person to handle. But man, that just is so right. Where’s the one cemetery I found with both Demonbreuns and Durards? At that Methodist church cemetery where Old Clarksville Pike and Clarksville pike split off again, just a few miles from where the tavern was. The the Durards go down into the valley south of Joelton and the Demonbreuns go down into the valley along Little Marrowbone Road. I just whooped up this map, which will hopefully show you.

Fourth, oh hold on! But Deraque wasn’t technically staying with Demobreun at all, was he? First, Demonbreun didn’t own the tavern then. Elizabeth did. Second, even if he was staying there with her while she owned it, Deraque testifies that he’d only been in Nashville six months before he went gallivanting around for Spain. And we know Demonbreun was in Kaskaskia for part of that time. Deraque was, literally, staying with Elizabeth. So, that makes sense of how he seemed an okay guy for her to marry off to. Heh, also might make sense for why the last Demonbreun kid and the first Deraque kid came so close together.

Fifth, I didn’t really learn, but I admit I wondered. Was Deraque lying when he said that Demonbreun was a spy for the Spanish? I’m starting to wonder if maybe not.

Here’s what I wonder. Did Demonbreun know that an attack on Nashville was likely? Is that why he sold his business to Bennett? So that, if it was destroyed, he wouldn’t have lost anything? Was there something happening in 1791 that would have caused Demonbreun to limit his financial exposure in case of an attack? True, he didn’t get rid of his other landholdings, but didn’t he have reason to presume that Spain would honor those deeds?

So, we have a bunch of people who are either technically Spanish subjects (Deraque and Fagot), people who have made overtures to being Spanish subjects–Robertson, etc., people who couldn’t quite be trusted to not see themselves as Spanish subjects (Demonbreun), and people who regularly work with the Spanish (Finnelson).

And now here’s where I wish we had the actual words that were said at Willstown, the thing that caused the Spanish agents to seem to decide that their loyalties lie not with the Spaniards and Indians, but with the Nashvillians. Because it doesn’t make sense that ANY of these people would stand against either a Spanish attack or an Indians-armed-by-Spain attack on Nashville. Well, except the people that lived there–Robertson and them. Obviously, they don’t want to die.

And that’s what got me thinking–not wanting to die is a huge motivating factor. But so is not wanting your loved ones to die.

What if what Bloody Fellow was saying was something more like “There are a shit-ton of USians and, if we piss them off, they will come down on us with a vengeance you’ve never seen? And can we really trust the Spanish at our backs? If they have this many weapons for us, how many more do they have for themselves?”

I mean, yes, on the surface, it seems like the Spanish would be totally cool with Nashville being annihilated, after Fagot went and told them that Nashville was looking to fight Spain. But isn’t there another way to read this same set of facts?

What if everyone had the feeling that some kind of massive Indian attack was inevitable? I mean, obviously they did, or else why would Robertson have been sending out feelers to see if Nashville could become Spanish? Remember, we KNOW Spain sells that land back to France who then sells it to Jefferson, but at the moment, Spain expected to stay there. Which means, at the least, they had to figure out if they were going to conquer the United States or live with them peacefully on the continent.

Would Spain really want to have to travel through a bunch of different, small, possibly warring countries just to negotiate with the U.S.? Or does Spain see what Tecumseh sees? That the Indians will have to come together in one nation in order to be strong enough to repel the U.S. from coming over the mountains? And maybe Spain doesn’t think that looks incredibly likely. At least not yet.

What if what the governor at New Madrid is asking Fagot in the middle of 1792 is not whether the Nashvillians are a threat to them, but whether the Nashvillians will expect Spanish protection or retaliation if they are attacked? Fagot is saying all “Oh, no, no, they hate you guys so much they’ll probably be looking to attack you next.” But Finnelson is saying “Hey, they’re trying to get along with your allies, the Indians, so yeah, they might still be open to negotiations?”

It seems like there are two ways to read every fact–like maybe New Spain would actually be afraid of an attack from the U.S.–though that just seems so ludicrous considering how few USians there actually are in the area and how hard it would be to muster an army from the East coast, get them through hostile Indian territory, and to New Spain. I mean, I guess they could attack Florida?

I know I’m circling around this, but I’m starting to wonder if this is the moment when at least some Indians–starting with Bloody Fellow–realize that Spain is playing them. In other words, I wonder where there were Spanish troops in Middle Tennessee in September of 1792. I wonder, in fact, if the delay in the attack wasn’t because they were waiting for Finnelson and Deraque to report back, but because they were trying to see where the Spanish troops were.

Because you know what I see? I see a landscape in which Spain might think that this is the moment to prove to the United States that they have a common enemy, on that Spain is more successful dealing with out West. Remember, Spain doesn’t have the same history and kinship ties with the people in that area that the French do/did. I see a landscape in which the Spanish know the US settlers are outmatched because they know what weapons the Indians have, but they know they are not outmatched because they know what weapons the Indians have.

I wonder if what Finnelson and Deraque figured out was that, if the Indians succeeded in wiping Nashville off the face of the earth, which would mean the deaths of some “Spanish” folks like Timothy Demonbreun and people who wanted to be Spanish, like Robertson, not only would they lose the people in Nashville that they liked, but that it would give Spain an excuse to come in and go to war with the Indians, thus proving their good-neighborliness to the U.S. but also establishing New Spain’s eastern boundary more in line with New France’s eastern boundary.

Tecumseh was right. A unified Indian “nation” between the U.S. and New Spain would have been the only way for Native Americans to keep USians from pouring into their lands, since, obviously, the U.S. wasn’t going to abide by its treaties. But how do you get a bunch of people who’ve never seen themselves as one group to do so? I mean, just imagine the logistics of declaring that Clarksville, Nashville, and Lebanon were all the same city and we’re not dealing with different languages and histories and cultures.

But in order for the Native Americans to focus on keeping the USians out of the land between the Appalachian mountains and the Mississippi river, they had to have some assurances that New Spain wasn’t going to attack them from the West.

What I wonder is if folks who had been in direct communication with Spain had come to doubt that Spain was solely on the side of the Indians. Just as a testament, look at the overtures Spain had been making toward the U.S., to bring more people into New Spain. Deraque would have direct knowledge of that, working for Fagot in St. Louis; he would have seen it with his own eyes. Finnelson would have seen, with his own eyes, U.S. settlers at New Madrid, even if it didn’t work out.

They had to see that New Spain wasn’t interested in keeping U.S.ians out of their territory. I don’t know. Maybe the Spanish army wasn’t big enough to be that much of a threat to the Indians. But U.S.ians being invited into Spanish territory had to be. And this is something Finnelson and Deraque would have seen (and, hell, Demonbreun for that matter). This seems to me to be really crucial.

Adventures at the TSLA: Sexy, Sexy Times

It was good fun to watch Provine struggle as much with Elizabeth’s and Timothy’s lovelives as I do. He started out believing that Elizabeth’s maiden name is unknown and that her first husband was someone Hensler with whom she had two children–William and Charles. Then he thinks she has two children with Amos Bennett–Polly Bennett and Timothy Bennett. Then he thinks she has a child with Someone Crutcher, and this child is John. Then comes Timothy with William and Jean Baptist. She has no kids with Joseph Durat and a “bastard daughter” named Delilah with John Cagle.

But then it’s obvious that Provine starts to see what I see. And that is that Elizabeth is not fucking having a bastard daughter named anything with anyone when she’s pushing sixty. It’s just not happening. Plus you don’t name two living kids William (and there’s evidence that William Hensler lived because he bought property from Joseph Durard). So, then he changes his mind and decides that William and Charles are probably Elizabeth’s brothers. I concur.

He lists her children as William, Polly, Jean Baptiste–all Demonbreuns–and Phillip Thomas, who is probably a Bennett. I think this is right. I suspect she was shacking up with Amos Bennett–if not married to him–and so at first passed Demonbreun’s kids off as Bennett’s.

But that’s not the juiciest part. No. So there I am reading along “Timothy DeMunbreun lived with three women as “common-law wives”–His legitimate wife was Agnes Gibeau, the other women were: 1. Eliabeth Bennett.” Then there’s a paragraph about her and it says “Elizabeth Bennett-Himsler-Demumbriun was with Joseph Durat–who died in Blue Spring Creek in Cheatham.” Let us have a moment for our friend Joe. But then who were the other two Tim was dogging around with? I go to the next microfilm page and…NOTHING. It’s a totally different subject.

I ask them to go get the actual paper file and find the second page is not in order but it’s there.

“Timothy Demonbreun lived with a woman by the name of Crutcher, by whom he had no children (Isn’t it curious that Provine at first thought that Elizabeth was married to a Crutcher?)

“Timothy Demonbreun also lived with Martha (Patsy) Gray (who was an aunt of William Bennet) by whom he had two children–a boy and a girl. They were quite small when Bennett visited there & does not know what becaome of them, he think this woman was from Georgia.”

So, everyone? Timothy Demonbreun was just sleeping with everyone? Even though he was well-known for having spindly legs? And he traveled all the time! Who knows what his poor wife found when she got back to Kaskaskia–probably three common-law wives there. All throughout the land, there was just an epidemic of spindly-legged children.

Adventures at the TSLA: What Sevier Knew of Deraque

John Sevier says:

Many years past I happened in company with a Frenchman, who lived with the Cherokee and had been a great explorer of the country west of the Mississippi, he informed me that he had been high on the Missouri and traded several months with the Welsh tribe; that they spoke much of the Welsh dialect and although their customs were savage and wild, yet many of them–particularly the females–were very fair and white.

Blah blah blah secret white Welsh Missouri Indians blah blah blah.

The Frenchman’s name has escaped my memory but I believe it was something like Duroque.

Adventures at the TSLA: Additions to the Buchanan Station Attack Timeline and Other Timeline Matters

This is from the Provine Papers, all his notes:

1777-February–Demonbreun finds six white men and a white woman in the Nashville area.

1778-April 12–Demonbreun reports to Kaskaskia that he’s bee to the Cumberland and found 30 families of Englishmen. The Wolf Indians were planning to attack them.

1783–The British thought Demonbreun had fled Kaskaskia for the Spanish side of the river

1791-Timothy sells to Elizabeth Bennett “called commonly Elizabeth Hinsler” lot no. 45.

1792-April–Demonbreun is at Kaskaskia

1792-August–Blount, General Pickens, and others met with Chickasaw and Choctaw folks near Nashville. There were Cherokee spies in attendance.

1792–September 15–Joseph Duratt and Richard Findelston warn of a pending attack.

1792-September 30–The attack comes

1792-October 3-Demonbreun goes to Philadelphia to report what happened. Finnelson has already gone.

1792-November 30–Demonbreun’s papers certified.

1792-December 5–He’s appointed Barbaucas [sic, but what the fuck?] magistrate at Kaskaskia

1793-March–Elizabeth marries Joseph Duraque

1793-June 1–Joseph Durat and wife Elizabeth sell to Demonbreun lot 45 (Broad and College)

1797–Demonbreun sells to Joseph Durat and wife Elizabeth 92 acres

A Heavy-Handed Parable about Love, Loss and Landscaping: A Guest Post

Hey all, Kristin Whittlesey asked if she could have some space to share this and I’m happy to give it to her though, obviously sad that the circumstances inspiring its creation have transpired. I don’t think that guest posts here are completely unprecedented, but they are unusual, so I just want to be clear that the credit for this beautiful piece goes to her.


We lost one of the laurels this week.

It was in the corner closest to the house, on the edge of the deck, just out of reach of the sprinkler.

We kind of knew it wasn’t getting as much water as the other plants, and we kept meaning to go back after we were done taking care of everything else and give it a good, deep hand-watering. But I got home from work late and was too tired to stand there in a cloud of mosquitoes for the extra five minutes. Then we had those concert tickets, and we were lucky to get the main watering done at all. You know how it goes. You just don’t think about it.

And then I looked out the window and the laurel was dead. Crisped and withered and dry as a bone.

I ran out immediately with the hose and gave it a thorough drenching. I tried frantically to think of ways to save it. Over the next few days we gave it our full attention, watering it frequently and poking at the interior branches for signs of life. But it was too late.

We planted that laurel, along with its many fellows, about a week before the 2010 flood. And I remember the elaborate lengths we went to, during those “don’t you dare shower” days of water restrictions, to keep those new plants alive. We bought several dozen five-gallon buckets, and every evening after work we drove to the park to fill them from the duck pond, just so we could keep everything well-watered. They were shiny and new, and our whole yard looked different and better for their presence.

We didn’t lose a one.

And by this summer, all those plants were well-established. We didn’t even think about them, to be honest. See, we planted grass seed this spring, and several beds of tender annuals, and it’s been so important to make sure those delicate sprouts and seedlings took root and thrived. The older, more established plants seemed to be doing just fine on their own.

Except now one of them is gone.

It’s entirely possible that it would have died anyway, of course. You never know with plants. But if there was anything we could have done, we didn’t do it, and now it’s too late.

“Why didn’t we water it?” we asked each other. Why did we assume it was just fine on its own, over there in the corner? When we looked at the yard, we didn’t even see that plant, so obsessed were we with the new and showy. And now there’s just a gaping hole in the landscape.

I’m still going to plant petunias, of course, and I’m still going to lavish them with love and water and mulch. But I’m also going to start paying a lot more attention to those laurels.

The Change

So, this is the part of Finnelson’s testimony I’d like to understand better (it’s in third person because he told Hays who wrote it down). Sorry it’s not really clean, but I’m just copying from what Google Books has:

[…]will settle matters better when we all get together Watts sat down and F turned off and went Red headed Will’s and turned out his horses as did also J Deraque and stayed there until the afternoon and returned to the square where the Bloody Fellow was up speaking in the center of the council He told not to go to war it was a bad step they were taking that he had been to hunt for the brothers they thought dead and that he found them they were good people the same as ever they did not wish to hurt them the Cherokees nor their children Look here at the things I fetched for myself likewise for you warriors When was the day that ever you went to your father and fetched as much as I have I did not go by myself others went me Ill had gone by myself perhaps you might have thought that I had made it myself You had better take talk and stay at home and mind your women and children The Bloody Fellow still standing Talohtisky rose said I too have been to Pensacola and seen the Governor as well as Watts and heard his talk I think a deal of his talk for it is good I shall try to tlo as he directed me and sat down The Bloody Fellow proceeded u Look says he at that flag don t you see the stars in it They are not towns they are nations there are thirteen of them These are people who are very strong and are the same as one man and if you know when you well you had better stay at home and mind your women and children The Bloody Fellow still standing Watts again got up and came forward said the day is come when I must bloody my hands again Tomorrow shall send off a runner to the Creek nation to fetch my friends in Then I shall nave people enough to go with to Cumberland or any place that I want to go to All then dispersed for about half an hour then returned all to their flaps painted black dancing the war dance in the square around the flag of the United States and continuing to dance until the evening At night they went to the town house and continued the war dance all night On the second day after arriving at Will’s town Finnelson returned from Red headed Will’s again to the square the Bloody Fellow who took him by the hand and asked him where he had been so long F answered through the Spanish country John Watts sitting near and hearing the conversation called F to sit down him and asked the news from the Governor at Orleans F answered not much but he wanted to see some of Cherokees for to deliver to them their guns and ammunition Watts asked F if there was no other news answered no not choosing to give him any other answer Watts said you have a letter Little John saw it out of your clothes at Red headed Will’s F answered he had a paper but it was not for him Watts him to go and bring that paper F went and took the letter Governor O Neal had given him for Watts tore it flung it into a creek and brought the passport from the Governor at Orleans which having the Spanish arms on it satisfied Watts Little John declaring those were the arms he saw on the paper that dropped[…]

So, I think a few things are going on here. One is that Finnelson  is in a unique position to appreciate what Bloody Fellow is saying, since he also travels a great deal. Bloody Fellow has been to Philadelphia (that’s where he got the flag he’s showing them). He’s seen U.S.ian cities and how they compare to Indian cities and Spanish and French cities. Finnelson might not have been to Philadelphia yet (though it looks like they send him to go talk to the Secretary of War later), but we’ve already seen him in Clarksville and New Orleans and he’s well-known to the dude in charge of New Madrid. So, he’d have reason to trust Bloody Fellow’s judgement about the realities of the United States–they’ve both seen some things. Finnelson also already knows that the Spanish and English are fine with supplying arms, but they don’t really want to have to ‘fess up to it and declare full-blown war on the U.S. so he’s probably less trusting of the word of the Spanish and English than others.

But most importantly, don’t you read this as Finnelson knowing Bloody Fellow particularly well? You can’t tell from this snippet, but Bloody Fellow is literally the first person Finnelson reports speaking to them here at Willstown. He takes Finnelson by the hand and asks him where he had been so long. And that’s when Finnelson decides to not show Watts the letter he wants to see. I can’t help but wonder if it’s not that Bloody Fellow’s speech exactly convinced Finnelson that what folks were about to do was wrong, but that Bloody Fellow reminded Finnelson of some bond they shared and so, if Finnelson was already feeling kind of ambiguous about the coming attack, Bloody Fellow’s acknowledgement of him is what convinced him to try to mitigate the harm of it.

I don’t know, though. I feel like I recognize the moment but not the dynamic.

I Continue to Ruin Rap for Young People Everywhere!

There are many subtle joys to being in your late 30s and uncool. The best of which is that you can be sitting in your office listening to that Hugo version of 99 Problems when the Jimmy John’s delivery kid comes in and he’s not really paying any attention to what you’re listening to because, by god, it has banjos.

And then, just as there’s a lull in the chit-chat, Hugo is all “aaannnndddd a bitch ain’t one.”

And the kid’s eyes go wide, like, “NOOOO! An old person likes that song!”

Victory is mine, folks, victory.

Fagot is the Villain, It Turns Out

I already made the Juggalos joke about his name, but in case you didn’t believe me that it’s pronounced Faygo, believe Andrew Jackson, who misspells it Fargo.

Okay, so Fagot was a merchant out of St. Louis and he’s apparently, from what I can tell, pretty much got the trade set up between St. Louis and New Orleans. But then the French give that territory to the Spanish and things seem to not have really gelled for Fagot and the Spaniards. Meanwhile, the U.S.ians are pushing into Indian territory from the east. Fagot decides that he’s going to be the guy who runs the “bringing things from Nashville to New Orleans” trade, so he’s got to reestablish good ties with the Spanish, convince the U.S.ians he’s the man, and somehow appease the Indians who seem to not be as fond of the Spanish as they were of the French.

So, he goes to Jackson and Jackson hears him out and writes a letter of introduction to someone else, whose name I’ve forgotten, which is a shame because he’s kind of important. Dude I forgot is all “Okay, fine, we’ll help protect you from the Indians if you can help us get our goods to New Orleans.”

But then Fagot goes back to the Spanish and is all “You guys totally need me because the U.S.ians along the Cumberland totally want to ditch the U.S. and come be a part of Spain. And only I can set that up.”

So, Spain writes a letter to dude whose name I forget: “Dear Nashville, I heard from Fagot that you kind of dug me and you know, I kind of dig you. You want to come snuggle with me?” And Nashville’s all like “What? No, dude, Spain, I totally only like you as a friend. I don’t know why Fagot gave you that idea. What a dick.”

Spain is, of course, “yeah, what a total dick.” But you know, in the back of Spain’s mind, Spain is all “What a fucking psycho Nashville is. Playing all ‘oh I love you’ and then ‘oh, wait, I don’t.'”

That’s in the late 1780s. I forget the exact date.

But then we come to 1792 and Fagot is in some financial trouble with Spain and Spain still thinks he’s kind of a dick and, obviously, Nashville thinks he’s kind of a dick. In fact, that may be why he had to hire Deraque and send him to Nashville, but that’s just speculation on my part. But now Fagot’s got a new story for Spain all about how Nashville is going to attack the parts of Spain along the Mississippi from it in order to control that part of the river.

And Spain is like “You’re a dick, but, yeah, Nashville is psycho so let me get my buddies who also hate Nashville to take Nashville out–and not in the fun way.”

Let’s all give the stink-eye to Fagot.

Is It Too Late to Change the New Kitty’s Name?

She is COVERED in brambles. I think she likes it because the second you get them all out of her fur, she comes back in with literally one gagillion more. No, it’s true, I had to call mathematicians and everything to ask what came after nine-hundred and ninety-nine zazillion as I was counting. So, I’m thinking perhaps Pumpkin was wishful thinking. She’s never come in, not even once, with a pumpkin in her fur.

So, I’m thinking of changing her name to Bramble Ann, which would allow me, with slight modification, to make this her themesong:

My cousin A. was completely taken with the new kitty. “What is she? She’s some kind of wild cat, isn’t she? Look at how big her paws are!” But I remain convinced that she’s a Maine Coon who lacked something vital–like, say, food–at a moment in her life when she could have grown up to be a big cat and now she’s just her size.

But I tell you, this morning, even with Miss Brambly Pants all full of brambles like they’re decorations and her getting all bent out of shape as I tried to pull them out, when she put her forehead against mine, I felt like the world is full of sweet and mysterious things, some of which, even, I don’t miss out on.

Derague, Deraque, Duratt, etc. Research

I think, now that I have a couple of good spellings for Joseph Deraque’s last name, that I’m going to re-hit-up the archives for information on him. I tell you, that New Orleans/Lafitte piece really has me thinking that we need that kind of knowledge about Deraque and Finnalson and Nashville.

I admit, I’m a little daunted about trying to find out more about Finnelson (Finalson? As in “the last one I had”?) because I kind of have no idea how to go about doing good research on the Cherokee. I know, in his deposition, he said he was from the Bird tribe, but I don’t really even know what that means, either.

But I want to know what there is to know. And I think starting out in the archives is starting down a path.

Printed Out

The October thing is printed out and ready for final revisions. The Sue Allen thing is printed out and ready for final revisions. I don’t know when those revisions are going to happen. But I am prepared.

I keep waiting for news I can share with you on “Sarah Clark,” because boy oh boy do I think that’s some of my best work. I have to find a way to bring it to you guys. Hopefully soon.

The thing about Lovecraft–sorry this post is so disjointed. I slept poorly last night and all of a sudden I’m so sleepy here on the couch–but the thing about Lovecraft is that everything has this science-fiction undertone, which I felt like I had to strip out and replace with a religious undertone. And maybe this is a fundamental difference between a haunted house in the northeast and a haunted house story in the South, but I just don’t feel like there’s the same ambiguous discomfort with the industrial era down here. Which I guess I hadn’t really thought about how science-fiction is a reckoning with the industrial era, but here we are. It kind of is. Will we rule our mechanisms or be ruled by them?

We don’t really have that same kind of haunting of mechanisms down here. If someone takes you to an abandoned mill here, you can rest assured they’re taking you to a place where grain was ground, not where small children’s hands were ground under huge machines making fabric.

Our concerns are still about whether we’ll rule the supernatural or be ruled by it (especially if you understand the supernatural to have a moral component). God that’s one of the things I loved about that Alex Bledsoe interview–that he really thinks about Southern literature, too.

Over at IO9, they have this great post about how Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is the perfect white-guilt movie.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Belts’ book about the roll of religion in motivating the Confederates. I keep thinking about the paradigm of the South as chosen people and the framing of Southern defeats as proof of soldiers’ immorality in the camps. Proof and punishment.

I have this theory that this is another one of those secret issues that we, as a society, try to work out without looking it square in the face, like coming to terms with the fact that slavery wasn’t just something white people did to black people, but something parents did to some of their children. You can talk family values all you want, but how can that kind of attitude not echo down through generations? Your grandfather’s grandfather lived in a world where a father could sell his son and everyone knew it.

But your grandfather’s grandfather was also born into a world where either God could love you best and therefore punish you worst or where the very religious beliefs that made up such a core part of your identity could be turned against you by your ministers in order to motivate you to willingly die.

That’s what fascinates me so much about the Reconstruction period. What do you do with the niggling suspicion that the thing you knew was moral was not?

Is There a Less Happy Version of Serendipity?

Oh, people, I was all excited because I am writing about Sumner County werewolves and I just read that there’s a country group called Angel Mary and the Tennessee Werewolves from Sumner County just about to release their first single!

I was all “I shall go to their website and learn about them! Perhaps make them the unofficial band of my story.” But their website! It’s not just that it’s kind of got a strange aesthetic. It’s that I can’t get the bio page to work in either IE or Firefox. I feel like we should form an angry pitchfork-wielding mob and chase their designer through the streets. There could be important info, but I can’t read it.

Plus, ugh, their single.

In the future, I pledge a dollar to every country music band/artist who invokes the Outlaw movement and who takes from it something other than a general “If the South Woulda Won, We’d Have Had It Made” vibe. I’m not saying that you can’t ever make reference to a “rebel yell” or that it makes you a bad person. But I’m done giving my money to people for whom appealing to racist jackasses is important.

You can have the racist jackass demographic, but then you can’t have my money.

Also, get off my lawn.

What Can Be Saved?

I’m not sure I have enough hose to reach all the things in my yard that so desperately need to be watered. The ground is like old concrete, firm under your feet, but prone to crumbling. The grass has all turned a yellowish green that suggests it still could spring back to life, but maybe not.

Every once in a while, you hear people talking about ways of combating hurricanes, like if they could just seed them with something or do something as they formed to dissipate them, and I think, well, then how will we get rain? It seems like a kind of trade-off we’d make, though. We want to spare this region this much damage and this much loss which takes place in really dramatic ways without a thought for what it could do to the neighboring region which will have that much damage and that much loss but slower, more gradually, so you can almost pretend you don’t notice it.

I think I’m going to focus on the trees and roses. Everything else can be redone in the spring. Assuming we have springs any more. I guess everything else could be replanted as cactus gardens if we’re determined to be a desert.

Things Elsewhere, Elsewhere Things

1. I interviewed Alex Bledsoe, whose books I was all snootily like “Oh my god, pirates, vampires, and fairies. Ugh.” and then ended up eating the tastiest crow as I read the books. Literally some of the most fun reading I’ve done in a while coupled with some interesting mulling overs of what it means to be a Tennessean (well, except for the pirate books). And the interview is great! I asked him some of the questions I’ve been mulling over here–what happened to vampires? Where’s the Southern The Haunting of Hill House?  I’m happy with this one.

2. Here’s the official release announcement for The Book of Apex: Volume 3 of Apex Magazine. Note that “Frank” is third! I don’t think that has any meaning in real life, but three seems like an auspicious number so I’m going to brag about it anyway.

Pirate City

Holy cow, S. brought me the new Paris Review saying only “There’s a piece on Jean Lafitte you’re going to love.” And so I flip through and there it is–“Pirate City” by Rich Cohen and, yep, holy shit. It’s excellent. Every bit of it is excellent. And it’s accompanied by these sad and mysterious water color paintings.

And it’s more a story of New Orleans in general, kind of arguing that, even as New Orleans existed before Lafitte, he’s still the spiritual father of the city.

And I buy it. Really. It makes me want to argue that the spiritual father of Nashville is someone like Bob Renfroe or our friend Joseph Deraque–men who could be barely recognized as men, who still made the city worth living in, who protected it when they could have turned their backs on it, who are mostly forgotten now, for lack of the right last name, the right racial or ethnic demographic.

But all that is just to say that Cohen says this–“History is not what’s remembered, but what remains when everything else is forgotten”–which I kind of want to think about for a million years.

Writing Day!

It’s nearly five o’clock and I’m still in my pajamas. And I’ve been up since seven. I was going to do laundry but we’re out of laundry detergent and I was going to run and get some, but I’m still in my pajamas. The dog is washed, though, which is a minor victory.

Otherwise, here’s what I’ve been up to–writing an introduction for and formatting an interview I’m really excited about, writing a post for Pith, eating lunch, and then finishing up a rough draft of the October thing. It’s going to need a good reworking, just because there are times when the language is a little too Lovecraftian and it’s hard to believe that someone who knows who Stephen King is and where he got his pot in Middle Tennessee would spend as much time finding things horrible and frightening and speaking as stiltedly as he does. But that’s easily enough smoothed over.

I think it stands just fine as a story even if you don’t know the Lovecraft connection and, if you do, I hope you’ll find that to be an especially tasty treat.

Did I tell you it’s about the Allens? I can’t remember. About a lost brother of the Gallatin Allens who unfortunately builds his house on top of the grave of a Deraque garou, in this case Jean Deraque, father of our friend Joseph.

Here’s how it ends, well, at least in this draft:

I still have wolfish-dreams, dreams that I am being pursued by a thing, something like a cross between a bear and a wild hog and a wolf and a mountain lion. But my father assures me that this is another family matter, a separate problem unique to the Allens, long left in the past, nothing to worry about. And, as long as I don’t dream in French or wake to small scratches or bite marks, I shall continue to believe him.

I’m not saying that the Allens appear to attract supernatural problems. I’m just saying that, if I were an Allen, I’d be growing some wolfsbane.

Prickly Things

I’m trying to read the collected short stories of Angela Carter and I’m embarrassed to say that I just can’t get into it. This is why I’m always suspicious of the “women are this way, men are that way” stuff, as if there’s some universal experience of womanhood that men just can’t share. I think that there’s a tension between knowing, intrinsically, what your gender is (even if your body doesn’t match) and the idea that sharing a gender means some kind of shared set of experiences.

I don’t know, for instance, what it’s like to hate my mom or feel in competition with her–not as an adult, which is one set of things, but I mean, as a stage in a woman’s development, which seems to be very common. My mom and I were never at major odds with each other. I sometimes felt like she didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand her, but it was never tinged with the undercurrent of betrayal I hear so many women talk about.

I also don’t have sisters and I know I don’t have some basic sense of that relationship.

And there’s something about Angela Carter’s worlds that I feel not quite able to access, some knowledge about or shared assumptions about women I just don’t have access to.

I had a strange trip to the endocrinologist on Friday, along with everything else. I think everything’s fine, the doctor thinks everything’s fine, but it’s just a reminder that the relationship between what I eat and what I weigh is still weirdly fucked. Apparently I lost fifteen pounds since I went to the gynecologist a month ago and I’m the lightest I’ve been since I started seeing the endocrinologist. I haven’t been doing anything different–not eating better, not exercising more, nothing. So, there was the weird moment when he’s all “Good job! What have you been doing?” “Um, Dairy Queen?” “What?” “I mean, nothing. Nothing different.” Long pause, concerned, wrinkled brow. “Okay, well, you look good, so let’s not worry. You’re not having any other health problems?” “No, I feel fine.” “Okay, I really think this is fine. Nothing to worry about. I’m going to run this extra blood test, though, just in case.”

I don’t feel any different than usual. Nor do I think I look any different. So, I’m trying not to put too much stock in it–either as a good thing or as a bad thing.

But it’s funny how those old weight-loss scripts come back to you, like “Oh, what I’m doing is working! I will keep doing that and more!!!! Then I will be thin and pretty and everyone will love me!!!” I mean, I know better than that crap and I still, oh, I still was like “Well, if I could do that in a month, think of what I could do if I was really trying!” But I wasn’t only kind of trying, you know? I wasn’t trying at all. I was eating the same as I always eat. Get two cookies with your Jimmy John’s sandwich and promise yourself you’re going to save the second one for later in the afternoon or maybe tomorrow, but eat it anyway? That’s my  big secret?

No, I think the big secret is that my metabolism is still deeply fucked and though the metformin makes me feel a ton better and stuff, it hasn’t fixed anything. What goes in is still weirdly disconnected from what goes on in my body. Well, not disconnected. But the connection is not as straight forward.  And won’t ever be.

It’s funny, and kind of embarrassing, so I’m going to stick this way down here at the end where no one ever reads. But the truth is that, while I got that the PCOS means that, while it was uncontrolled, I really was eating normally or dieting and still gaining weight. And I accepted that, as long as that was screwed up, I didn’t really have that much control (if any) over what I weighed.

But I’ve been harboring this dark fantasy that, eventually, everything would be straightened out and my weight would be a direct reflection of my status as sinner, as over-indulgent and excessive and undisciplined. That I finally would be deserving of the “no man will ever love you if you don’t get your weight under control” bullshit. Isn’t that weird? I wanted it to finally be true–that this was something that did reflect on my willingness (or not) to do what it takes to deserve love. Maybe “wanted” is wrong. Maybe “want.”

I don’t want someone I love to have said such shitty untrue things about me. I would prefer, a million times over, to believe instead, that he said such a shitty thing to me, repeatedly, because it was true and it was something I was deliberately failing at.

And maybe, a little bit, I thought that day was coming–when I could know with confidence that I controlled how big my body is, and thus I have earned every bit of derision or lust it inspires.

But, I really don’t. Even now. This many years into the metformin. I still try to eat as well as I can and I have two cookies more than I should, and the body does what it does. As always, the animal and I are not in perfect alignment, just compromising under the illusion that we–it and I–are, and are only I.

Singing and Dancing

We all went to Ri’chard’s for dinner because they said how much N. enjoys live music. Boy they are not fucking around about that. She was entranced. All she wanted to do was to get right up by the performance area and ask a million questions or dance or just stand there like a million tiny fireworks only she could see were going off.

My favorite part of the day was when she had me sing to her “babies” and I made up a song but then I switched up to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” The look on her face when she realized I was singing a song she knew… She was literally bowled over. But then she recouped and sang with me.

Bitter Sweet

Oh, god, now I have that “Can’t change, I can’t change, I can’t change” in my head. I’m having a very lovely visit with my cousin A. and her husband and daughter. Her daughter is two and a half and just smart as poop. Hilarious. I mean, I’m glad she’s not my kid, because my kid would, if she said “damn it” as cute as N. does, would not be stopped. She’d be cussing like a two-and-a-half year old sailor.

Her visit so far has involved finding every stuffed animal in the house and putting it either to bed or in time out. Grover, it seems, cannot help but hit people in the head. I was asked to “talk to him.” About all the hitting of people in the head–Kermit and the Grinch.

But the best part is when she sat on the couch with me and told me all about her dogs, Charlie and Lola. Charlie has a “twinkly eye” but Lola does not. Turns out poor Charlie has a cataract. But I love that she came up with the notion that it was “twinkly.” It’s going to be odd if she maintains her current bodytype, because she’s really tall and slender for a two-and-a-half year old. We Phillipses don’t produce a lot of tall and slender people usually, but, eh, every once in a while. And neither her mom or dad are that tall. but she’s about as tall as a five-year-old.

The thing is that, I had a wonderful evening last night. But this morning, while they’re still asleep, I about want to cry. Is this what I’m missing out on? Having these people closer? Having a kid who runs around saying “damn it” when she gets frustrated?

But how could I have lived my life any differently? I mean, it’s not like I deliberately chose this life, but when I saw it coming, I didn’t run from it, either, and I’ve run from other things.

The Corporate Shill had a baby last night. I didn’t even know she was pregnant.

I just let go and let go and let go. Take my hand and feel it already slipping out of your grasp. And for what? I don’t know.

The Rejectionist has a post about this today, too.

Is this what you do to be an artist? And, if so, then why do I suck at it?

Oh, lord. I don’t suck at it, I know. I just don’t know something and I’m not even sure what that something is.

Oh, family. They’re just like excavators for all kinds of emotional crap.


Before I begin this post, I just want to say that I agree with Chris Wage here and here. A lot of people aren’t reading this chick for comprehension, but for the chance to stand in line to be the next to tell her how wrong she is.  And let’s just never mind how disgusting it is to blame her or others like her for people’s deaths. Lord almighty. There is nothing the internet loves more than the chance to tell women how wrong they are and how our wrongness is hurting America and killing the very things–artists, children, families–that we love.

All that being said, I think this post by Jason Lewis tells a real truth, one that I have learned just by observation living here in Nashville, where literally everyone is the best guitar player you’ve ever heard:

once you get to a certain level, where you’re playing good clubs and have a following, almost everybody is good, almost everybody has something. What separates one band from the next is often a confluence of timing, luck, having the right people in the room at the right time…any number of somewhat uncontrollable factors. And the truth of the matter is, no matter how hard you work, on a certain level you cannot control that stuff.

This is the truth of publishing, too, and one I can’t really figure out for myself. You know I consider A City of Ghosts to be a great success and I really love that book. But I have to tell you, I’d rather have a publisher next time. I want a little of their luck. Not because I want to be rich and famous, but because I want my work to have a shot at being read and liked by people who don’t know me, at all.

And I can’t make that happen on my own. I tried.

The Menace of Cathode Ray Tubes

I’m at the part in “The Shunned House” remix where the narrator’s uncle has procured some Crookes’ tubes to… I’m not quite sure… do something to the thing in the basement. I looked up Crookes’ tubes, which were apparently hugely important for teaching us a lot about different thing, but, as far as I can tell, really only succeeded in casting some kind of glowing shadow? I don’t quite understand if they were cathode ray tubes or if they lead to the invention of the cathode ray tube, but either way, it appears their strategy for using a Crookes’ tube as a weapon would have actually been something like “Please look at this until you get really, really bored.”

Which, you know, is how most of us spent our childhoods in front of cathode ray tubes and none of us were vanquished.

On the other hand, presumably none of us are werewolfish vampiric Frenchmen buried in some unsuspecting person’s basement, so maybe it works?

This part of the story is making me realize two things. One, I need a different weapon. I’m going with a highly-classified electromagnetic pulse weapon, which our grandchildren and great-grandchildren can laugh about. “Betsy thought you could vanquish a werewolfish vampiric Frenchman with a toaster?! People in the past were so stupid.” To which I say, “None of you are vampiric werewolfish Frenchmen buried in some unsuspecting person’s basement, so I guess it works, huh? Get off my lawn.”

Two, my story needs more Jesus. Well, any Jesus at all. It’s just not plausible that a couple of Southern vampiric werewolfish Frenchmen-hunters who think they may have uncovered evidence of black magic wouldn’t have some Jesus-y backup. No matter how “skeptical” or “scientific” they imagine themselves to be, they’re going to pray at some point. It just wouldn’t be otherwise.

That’s a pretty big change from Lovecraft, but it’s a necessary one to meet my goals.

When You Win on Outrage, What Do You Lead On?

Frank Cagle’s got an interesting column up over at Metro Pulse about how the Republican infrastructure in Tennessee was built with the power of outrage and how, now that they’re in power, the Republican politicians haven’t found a way to diffuse that outrage into something that’s not going to bite them on the ass, too.

Hence the situation where twenty-three Republicans have primary challengers.

I think part of the problem is that there’s been this underlying rhetoric of “When we get into office, we will make them pay.” But all the ways that Republican politicians have made “them” pay don’t really feel viscerally satisfying to people who are not also politicians. I live in Nashville, for instance, and I am neither really aware of nor greatly upset over whose offices have had to move where and whose staff has been cut. I don’t feel personally insulted by it. Same with redistricting. Eh? So what? Republicans won. I expected them to redistrict in their favor.

And I’m not trying to downplay the assault that women’s health is under in this state, but I suspect that, since so few places actually perform abortions in Tennessee that, if Republicans could persevere and get them all shut down, it, too, wouldn’t feel like they want to feel.

Because they want to feel like they’ve won. The whole thing. That their enemies have been vanquished and that the state is now safe once more for good conservative, Christian folks. And that just can’t be. No one is ever actually completely vanquished. Especially not when your battles are mostly rhetorical.

The problem is, I think, that a lot of conservative Tennesseans feel like they were promised this moment. And it’s not coming.

I don’t know what Republicans do, instead, but I am genuinely and not snarkily interested in seeing if and how you take a political movement that expects one thing and massage them into accepting another.

Family Visit

My cousin A. and her family arrive tomorrow! I am really excited. But man, we need to get a shit-ton of Deep Woods Off.