Good Work

Project X is coming along. I’m aiming for about 50,000 words that will, I hope, comprise seven interlocking stories. I only have about 2,000 words a day on any one subject in me, so the difficult thing with the story I’m working on now is that I know exactly how it goes. I just am having trouble getting it on the page, because I’m kind of mentally fried.

But, at lunch, I saw a Law & Order: Criminal Intent with Captain Morgan in it, briefly. He played the murder victim, but he was up and around enough for me to say “Hey, I think that’s Captain Morgan!” and then he died and then the showed the name Joshua Burrows and I said, “It is Captain Morgan” and the Butcher said, “I don’t know whether to be sad for you or impressed.”

I’m Afraid I Might Be Everything I Hate

A Minor Aside about Ghosts

One of my favorite things about ghost stories is that they do change. Probably 90% of the ghost stories you were told and were assured had been handed down for years weren’t that old. Maybe a decade old, at best.

And it makes sense, if you think about it–even if ghosts are somewhat eternal, the things that frighten us or seem important enough to us to pass on, aren’t. Even if there’s a cold spot in your house, even if you can stand in that spot and hear the weeping of a woman, the story you hear about the reason behind that is probably not the story they heard 20 years ago or that will be told 20 years hence. Unless the stories get written down, that tends to fix them.

But stories that are only oral? They change.

And I kind of love that.

I’m not expecting at all to find that Acklen was a witch. Like I said, I think that’s a myth people my age needed in order to understand how she could be so powerful. But I do wonder if there’s some Masonic symbolism around the mansion or the campus in general, since that often gets mistaken for Satanism or witchcraft.

Project X Crowdsourcing

When I first moved here, someone told me that the Belmont students used to have a kind of undercurrent legend about Adelicia Acklen–that she was a witch. What I mean by an undercurrent legend is that the main current of stories about her are all uniformly positive, but that there were these other stories, which, for Belmont students, seemed to explain some of the incongruities of the positive legends–in other words, if she was a truly proper Southern women, why did she outlive all her husbands? How did she command such great wealth? How was she able to have such a huge social presence? On her own, not as helper to her man?

I think those stories must have been told by people my age and older, since the stories about what “proper” women can do these days are so vastly different. I mean, I don’t think Belmont needs a wicked woman at its heart anymore. And so Ms. Acklen is not seen that way any more.

But I’d like to hear some of those old stories or bits of legend again, if any of y’all remember them.

Also, I’m wondering if there is or used to be a cave or even a nook of some sort near Belmont, a natural place where a man could hide.

Do you know that monk’s hood and wolf’s bane are the same thing? Can I just assume a reader would know that or should I make it clear?

In Which I Laugh at the Dog

Yesterday, the dog got stuck under the camper, which is stuck under a tree in our back yard. And somehow, eventually, she wiggled her way out the far end, instead of just turning around and exiting the way she’d come. Who even knew her hips could still flex like that?

And, really, they can’t. She tried to go for a walk this morning, but we got to the shed and she was like “Ugh,” and I was like, “Ha ha.”

The “ha ha” part is probably why I’m going to Hell, if there is such a place.

Project X

So, Project X features a lot of first-person stories from throughout Nashville’s history. I’ve been fretting the most over Dr. Jack Macon, wanting to include him and wanting to get his voice right. My assumption is that he must have been brilliant and he would have, as his master’s constant companion growing up, at least had the opportunity to see someone else learning to read and write.

So, the conceit in the story is that he’s literate, though self-taught. It goes (at least in this early draft):

I said, I would like some paper & a pen & some ink & I would like for Mister Macon to let me use it & not be crossed that I can do it. Who taught you? Me, I say. I learned myself. & he laughed, because they never believe what I can do until they have need of it.

He said, but I could set you free. I do not let myself hear it. That which is crooked cannot be made straight.

It’s that last part, the last sentence, that does me in. To me, it says everything about this character there is to be said. This is a man who can read the Bible, who knows it in his soul, who can quote the Preacher from memory when his own words fail him. And who feels something has been done to him that will never be undone and that the promise of its undoing is false. Is a vanity, like all is vanity.

Oh, and Sam Houston is a werewolf. Or was, until he got married.

Scott DesJarlais is a Big Ole Liar

You have to give him credit. He motherfucking gaslit his whole district, just told them up was down with enough conviction that they believed him. And now? Now here’s the story of the three abortions, the multiple affairs with patients and other folks. And the pattern of him just lying and lying and reshaping the world to smooth over his controlling, abusive behavior.

I don’t say this lightly. I’d like to believe he’s somehow not this man anymore, but the fact that he continues to lie and to do so in such an egregious manner makes me think he hasn’t. But I’m terrified for his current wife.

This man seems to be motivated solely by what’s convenient for him at the moment.

The Secessionists Should Consider History

I hadn’t been giving much thought to the secessionists until I saw how deeply they bothered Coble and then another friend of mine told me he thought it was a good idea. I laughed and told him I’m not sure life as a Basque separatist suited him.

But then I got to thinking about it on the walk this morning and I think that this is one of those times when it’s really obvious that people don’t know their history. Because, even if we let, say, “Tennessee” secede, do these fools really think the U.S. government would give “Tennessee” the land it sits on?! We have a LONG track record, going back to the very founding of our country of relations with sovereign nations who share this land with us that don’t have big enough armies to defend this land (even if they are well enough armed that getting this land from them is very difficult).

Name me just one time when we’ve said “You can have all this land that we want and already kind of consider ours and we promise we won’t make your lives miserable about it” and stuck to it. Show me once in history where we’ve said “Of course you can live on the land of your ancestors unfucked with even though we want that land for ourselves.”

Do the secessionists think we’d do better by them than we did, say, the Cherokee? Why? Because the Secessionists are “civilized?” White? We considered the Cherokee civilized when we set out to either annihilate them or drive them out of Tennessee and “we” white people were intermarried with “them.”

Do secessionists think the U.S. wouldn’t dare pull any bullshit like Indian Removal on them with the whole world watching? Motherfuckers, we drone strike children and wedding parties with the whole world watching and we don’t even bat an eye. “Dealing with” separatists? Who’s going to complain? Not our allies. So, who? Russia? China? Look how they deal with their separatists. So, I doubt it.

It’s a fairy tale in a lot of ways–this secessionist talk. But the rosy faith it has in the United States government to behave with honor if this extremely unlikely scenario were somehow to come to pass is kind of charming. Contrary to all our history and current way of being in the world, but charming.

And this is what the afghan looks like by morning light. I have a lot of end of thread tucking to be done, but this is what it looks like, no question.

This is what the afghan looks like when draped over a body as said body finishes up the border.

Project X

Can we call it “Project X”? The source of my current excitement and anxiety? What can I say about it yet, except that it is along the lines of my usual stuff and yet, I expect it will be better because of the aspects of the thing that don’t pertain to me.

The thing I’m most excited about is that Project X requires thinking of a story as an object in a way that I’m not used to. How the words go on the page–literally where they are–matters in this project a great deal.

It’s going to be very cool.

In other news, I finished my short story. I have to let it sit a while because it hits me in the heart, which makes it hard to judge if it’s working or not. But I’m really proud of it anyway.

The Downfall of a Great General

I keep reading about what a great general Petraus was and how, maybe, we just need to be more understanding of the needs of these great men to have affairs otherwise, we wouldn’t have said great men.

And I just want to say a couple of things. One, I think it’s kind of stupid that any part of the government is sticking its nose into people’s personal business so far that it’s making rules about whether people can have affairs. But those are the rules as they stand now in the military. And I find it galling–though unsurprising–that people at the top of the chain feel free to do things they know have ended the careers of their underlings. It just seems like flaunting your power. I find that dishonorable.

But the more important thing is that the idea that Petraus or Eisenhower or Roosevelt were the best leaders America could produce is unproven. And we should not forget that. There may have been a military genius as inspiring and passionate and brilliant as Eisenhower who may have even been in the military right then, and who would have never cheated on his wife, but we never got him as a general because he was black. There may be a very faithful woman in the military right now who is every bit Petraus’s match, but we do a lousy job of moving women up the ranks.  And that’s just people who were/are in the military. How many great leaders have we lost out on due to our old policies toward gays?

I don’t want to downplay the genius of these guys (and I realize I’ve roped Roosevelt in here as if he’s a military dude, when he’s just an affair-having leader, but I wanted three names, because… well, it’s three, and it’s the magic number). I just wish we didn’t talk about it like it was a singular genius, like, if we don’t tolerate in them extraordinary hypocrisy and bad behavior, we might miss out on what they had to offer.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that, yes, these might be the best players we had on the field at that moment, and they made some extraordinary plays, but a lot of great players never made the game.

We simply don’t know that those players who weren’t allowed on the field would have lost us the game. We simply can’t know that.

We don’t need to be held hostage to the idea that these are the best America can do. We don’t yet have a fair enough system to know if that’s true.

One of the pleasures I take in afghans is how they seem to kind of have a landscape quality. Hills and fields and ponds and streams of color. Now I’m setting the border of my yarn country.. It will have two loops of single crochet stitches in this tannish color. I’m about halfway through the first loop.

I Know You Deepest Secret Fear

I love The Doors. And, yes, I know they’re corny. I know they’re ridiculous. I know they’re easily mockable. I know they take themselves too seriously. I know their lyrics are not always as smart as they think they are. I know all these things and I love this band anyway.

The thing I love about them most is hard to explain. But I feel like everyone is standing a little farther apart than they ought to be. Like they’re just on the verge of not being able to rightly hear where the other musicians are in the song. Like, if you need to stand less than, say, six feet apart in order to keep up with each other, they’re all standing just over six feet apart. There’s a way that everything in every song sounds a tiny bit behind. And yet, if everything is a tiny bit behind, then it’s not really behind, you know? But I just feel like time moves differently in a Doors song, like a Doors minute has 60.5 seconds in it instead of 60.

That “The Spy” is a four minute Doors song that we experience as being four minutes and fourteen seconds.

You know what I mean? The Doors are kind of trippy. They’ve got their own time and space. When you make the journey over, it’s a pleasant mind-fuck to try to reconcile the differences.

What the Heck am I Doing?

My biggest fear as a writer is that I suck but can’t see it, that I’m working and submitting and working and submitting and doing my best but nothing is ever going to happen because I lack the ability to discern that my writing sucks. The worst part of this scenario is that I can’t even ever hope to improve, because I can’t see what’s wrong.

At some level, I know this is… not exactly an irrational fear… but a useless one. I can’t not write and I can’t quiet the desire for seeing my name on a book someone else published. So, what am I going to do? All I can do is acknowledge the fear and move on.

Still, it sits in my gut lately especially. I’m in a preliminary discussion about a project that would be pretty incredible and cool and right up my alley. And I’m freaked the fuck out because no one seems to doubt that I’ll be able to pull it off.

No one except me, I guess.

But I have only ever been published twice! What credibility do I even have to say “Here’s my idea and here’s why I think it will work with your concept and…”?

None, people. I have no credibility. I am taking the spot of someone who has credibility. And yet, I am not going to move out of the way for that more credible person, whoever he or she might be.

In other news, I only have two seams left on the afghan. And that intimidated the shit out of me, too. I’m going to need to keep that afghan where I can see it at all times, to remind myself that I can do things that seem nearly impossible to me.

And also, to smother the more credible person with, when he or she shows up at my house to complain I’ve taken his or her spot.

Now What?

I’m finding the stories about the new direction of the Republican party to be interesting. Not in a snarky, schadenfreude way way–though there’s a little of that, too–but the problem of what to do when you think you’re doing exactly the right thing and you believe that things are going your way only to wake up one morning and realize that you’ve been completely wrong is an interesting one, and scary.

And this isn’t an easy problem to solve. In the Washington Post, there’s a story of Beth Cox from Hendersonville (please ignore the fact that the reporter claims to be reporting from Central Tennessee, which is not a place in our universe).

“I will be okay,” she told one caller. “I just don’t think we will be okay.”

Here in the heart of Red America, Cox and many others spent last week grieving not only for themselves and their candidate but also for a country they now believe has gone wildly off track. The days after Barack Obama’s reelection gave birth to a saying in Central Tennessee: Once was a slip, but twice is a sign.

If, as Obama likes to say, the country has decided to “move forward,” it has also decided to move further away from the values and beliefs of a state where Romney won 60 percent of the vote, a county where he won 70 percent, and a town where he won nearly 80.

This is a good illustration of a problem the New York Times identified for the Republican Party. Southern Republicans don’t think the Republican party fucked up. They think their position is the right, moral, and just one, but that the country is abandoning it in a terrifying fashion.

From the Times piece:

Many Southern Republicans said that the lessons of Tuesday could be overlearned, and that the message was not the problem — it was the messengers, or at least the messaging.

“I don’t think for a second Republicans ought to change what we believe and what we stand for,” said Andy Taggart, a lawyer in Madison, Miss., and a former executive director of the state Republican Party. “I do think we could do a more effective job of communicating that.”

Nearly everyone admits that the party will have to broaden its demographic appeal. But for state-level politics across much of the region, there is no reason to be in a hurry. The racial and partisan divide is nearly absolute in the Deep South, with a Democratic Party that is almost entirely black and a Republican Party that is almost entirely white. That electoral math favors the Republicans — for now.

You know, there’s a way in which I sympathize with Taggart here. I mean, I feel like I get up every weekday and say things at Pith that seem ludicrous and contrary to reality to the majority of commenters (if not readers) and yet, I feel pretty certain that I am, for the most part, right. On the other hand, it’s kind of mind-boggling that someone thinks there’s some way to dress up “white men retain control of everything; Evangelical Christianity is the state religion; and everything we decide is immoral is against the law,” that would make everyone in the country happy to go along with it. On the other hand, when you have that kind of surety, when you can’t begin to imagine the validity of thinking about these things in other ways, it seems plausible that, if this message is attractive to you, there must be some way to say it that would be convincing to others.

And yet, the truth of the matter seems to be sinking in to some. Ron Ramsey, for instance, is talking about the necessity of roping Hispanics in to voting Republican. He thinks this can be solved by immigration reform of some sort. But we’ll see. The true test of whether Hispanics in Tennessee begin to vote Republican in large numbers will be if Republicans are willing to run Hispanic candidates.

That will be interesting to see.

Vitamin D: The Undeficiencying

Oh, I forgot to tell you that yesterday was the first day of my three-month-long weekly regimen. I tried to decide if I felt any different, if I could sense some general feeling of better-being, like I did when the metformin first started to work, but the truth is: no. I already did not have any sexy pirates in my life, so I could measure no lessening of pirates as my chances of becoming one decreased. I didn’t feel particularly in danger of all of my bones breaking and me being reduced to a pile of jello, so I don’t feel any less gelatinous today.

I would kind of like a banana, but I always would kind of like a banana, so I can’t tell if that’s a side effect or not.

The pills, however, are beautiful, these kind of translucent, soft diamonds. I was stunned. I wonder if pharmacists are ever tempted to bring home their beautiful gel containers and make them into jewelry. Because these pills would make gorgeous earrings.

In Non-Afghan Related Weekend News

I started a short story. It’s in epistle-style, which I am finding I really enjoy as a way of building tension. You’re really locked into the head of one person and literally discovering information only at the point that the person is reflecting upon it.

But now I’m to the point where something must happen–the climax of the piece–and I’m not sure how to convey the urgency of the situation from a letter to a person I fully intend is there at the climax.

And I swept my bedroom, because I couldn’t stand it, and I was feeling so proud of myself and also a little silly, because, surely, if I can sweep my bedroom, my knee is not so fucked as I keep saying, and I stepped out into the hall and my left ankle just went “blergh” which is the noise of it having a pain like a giant cramp. It wasn’t a twist or anything. It was, weirdly, almost like a charlie horse. It clenched up in all disconcerting ways, was sore for about fifteen minutes, and then was fine.

But I took it as a sign not to forget that the limping I do to make it easy on the right half of my body has consequences for the left side.

I feel like I am, in general, a lazy person. But this is asking me to be lazy beyond my tolerance. I fantasize about walking the dog. I take the long way home from places. Motherfuckers, I even swept my room!

How do people who are cooped up in hospitals for months, like how Patsy Cline was after her car accident, not go stir-crazy?

The Garden Patch Afghan

I have some thoughts. Could you do this? If you’re a relatively experienced crocheter, absolutely. Hell, it would suck if you were a beginner crocheter, but you would know a lot about crocheting and afghan construction by the end of it. I guess what I mean is that, if you were looking to level up big time in your crocheting skills, this would be the afghan for it. I feel like I learned some things and I pass a lot of time in the winters crocheting.

If you aren’t that good at crocheting yet, I would recommend following the color pattern of the afghan exactly and following the advice of the commenters about making your small squares with three links at the corners, not five.

So, the nice things about this afghan are as follows: Like any good granny square afghan, it’d be great for using up leftovers. This pattern especially lends itself to that, because it actually looks better the more colors you use. The square, once you learn it, is pretty easy to execute. It actually works up into a nice sized afghan. And, if you can keep everything straight, it works up pretty easily.

The drawbacks. Keeping everything straight is a bear–almost at the limit of my abilities, not just as a crocheter, but as a person. There’s a ton of squares to keep track of. When you’re putting the squares together, it’s a constant battle to make sure that you’re sewing blocks together how they should go and, once you are piecing the blocks together, making sure that they’re facing the directions the pattern calls for, since there’s quite a bit of flipping things around.

I have five long table runners draped over a chair and I am just about as nervous about getting those four seems done as I have been any other part of the process.

Plus, I think this is a hugely time consuming project. It just turned out that, with my bum knee, I’ve had a lot of time to consume lately. I’m going to have this done in a couple of months, but, under normal circumstances, I’d expect it to be a three, three-and-a-half month project. You’re not just going to whoop one of these up in a weekend for someone.

I’ve only made two other afghans for myself. One got felted in the wash–let’s not think about that–and one is sitting in my room in need of mending–which I guess I should do now that I’m thinking about it.

But this is going to be a beautiful addition to the house.

And then I can get started on one like it, but with more blues and greens, for Rachel. Hopefully, that will take more time.


These are actual search terms that brought people to Tiny Cat Pants today.