The Curse of the Red River Valley Earworm

The tune is beautiful, as we’ve established by the number of people who have used in in their songs.

But the song is so sad! The cowboy’s great love is leaving the valley. And she loves him, obviously, because she came and sat by his side and listened to him sing to her all about how much he will miss her.

Why couldn’t they make it work?

And now it’s stuck in my head.

And worse is the worry that it’s her leaving that causes him to become depressed and look around for barns to sleep in and, eventually, for other women to comfort him because he never understands why the one he loves left him.

In Which I Feed the Rolls to the Dog

Our parents arrived yesterday. The Butcher was stuck in a broken down truck in Gallatin, so just the three of us went to dinner over at whatever the new restaurant at Fontanel is. I guess it’s not that new anymore. We just hadn’t been over to it. But it was fine. They serve you these big buttery garlic rolls, which they then send you home with. I fed those to the dog.

But I also had this delicious carb, cheese, spinach, and broccoli thing. Like a calzone but smaller?

Did I tell you that the Butcher and I are trying to eat more vegetables? Ha ha ha. I was teasing him that we are going to be the most successful “more vegetables” people in the history of people who have improved their diets because we have been, in the past, terrible about cooking vegetables at home. This week he made this fettuccine alfredo thing with carrots and peas and broccoli and… I forget what else, but I was all “four vegetables in one meal! That’s all the vegetables we get in a week usually!” (Which is not strictly true, but was funny in context.)

It’s really good to see my parents. My dad was all “I was so shocked by your brother’s news that I forgot to ask when the baby is due.” And I laughed and said that I knew what he meant because when my brother told me, all I could do was listen and will myself to not scream “What the fuck?” in a long, drawn out manner for like five minutes. But then I did later ask.

Families are funny. You think you’re all on the same page, but really, a family is a collection of people all on slightly different pages, in slightly different editions of the same book (or different books by the same author) trying to read in unison.

The Words

I’m fascinated/confused by this idea that people listen to music without giving a fuck what the words are. It came up at the Hooded Utilitarian and it still blows my mind. What, then, do people sing in the shower, if they don’t know the words to songs?

This morning I sang in the shower “Can I Sleep in Your Arms Tonight, Lady?”

And I thought about how our parents would always put on “The Red-Headed Stranger” in the trailer while we were camping so that we would fall asleep while they were out talking or playing cards.

And then I was kind of bummed that I didn’t know the words to “Can I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight, Mister?”

Because I would have sung that. Ha, you know, it’s kind of beside the point I’m trying to make (which is a meandering point anyway), but you know that Charles Wolfe would have known who the fiddler on this recording was, either just because he knew who Charlie Poole’s fiddler was, or because he’d listen to it and be able to make a guess just by sound (Wikipedia suggests it’s Posey Rorer). I really like Poole’s version because I feel like we’re listening to something that is recognizable as proto-bluegrass–the heavy fiddle, the plinky, show-off-y banjo, the nasal singing.

But I would not have sung “Red River Valley,” because it’s so sad.

Anyway, if you don’t know the words, aren’t those the same song?

Plausibility–Project X

Project X ends with a fictionalized me going to see a fictionalized Tom, who is drinking freezing tea while sitting out front of The Church of the Holy Trinity, that Episcopal church by the homeless mission. Tomorrow.

They/we meet up tomorrow.

And I have been checking the weather all week to see if it’s going to be warm enough for them/us to meet outside and have an awkward conversation while he sits in a church-basement folding chair drinking his tea. It’s, at best, going to be in the mid-50s.

The thing about this type of fantasy that intrigues me is that I like feeling like I’m creating something that’s almost, not quite, implausible. Like you know it’s not real. That’s a given because there’s a werewolf. So, there’s a line, obviously, that the book crosses into “not-real.” But what I like is the discomfort of knowing we’re straddling some real/not-real line. Of course there is no werewolf. But did the Allens really have seances? (Yes.) Is there really a black dog that haunts the Almaville Cemetery? (No.)

Still, it’s funny–that line. Here I am all “Oh no! It’s going to be way too cold for them to hang out in the churchyard tomorrow!” As if there’s ever a plausible time when Tom and I would hang out in an Episcopal Churchyard hedging about werewolves. No one is going to be all “I totally would have bought that conversation except I know for a fact that it was too cold for them to have it.”

This Week, Ugh

Did I mention my parents are coming? Tomorrow?

I don’t know why I’m so stressed about it, but I am.

I talked to my brother, now that the shock has worn off, and learned that they haven’t even been to the doctor yet, so they don’t know when she’s due. I guess when you’re dead broke, your first stop is the health department, not the doctor.

I just want life to be kinder to my nephews (and soon-to-be whatever) than it has been, you know?

Project X–The Art

So, whew, it turned out that we didn’t meet with artists, just rifled through their work at the studio and looked at samples online and talked about what our needs are and which artists had already expressed an interest in working on it.

Of course, I’ll say more as things get finalized, but right now I’m just trying to wrap my head around it. It’s going to be real art. Not just literal illustrations of what’s happening in the story at that point, but things that tell their own tales in their own ways.

And the best part is that quit a few of the works we looked at have a kind of perfect unsettling fairytale vibe.

It’s just a lot of moving parts and, to be honest with you, I’m feeling also a little overwhelmed by it, too. Not that my job is to bring all the moving parts together, but I really, really want this to happen now and it’s not just dependent on me to make it work. So, you know, I have to figure out how to let go of the desire to control every little thing.

Which is not in my nature.

Ha ha ha.

I think I can say that one of the artists we saw is working on pieces right now that imagine different plants as having what I interpreted as human souls and trying to represent those in art. They are amazing. I don’t know if anything like that will end up in the book, but you can see what I mean about having the right vibe, the right take on the world.

On Horace Mann

This is an incredible article (though a tough read) about sexual abuse at Horace Mann. There are a few really good things to note–how the grooming plays out, the mixed feelings survivors can have, how a cult of personality can develop around the abuser, and even how the abuser justifies his abuse by framing it in the context of his larger actions, which are about helping the child.

But the thing that really struck me is how not only was nothing done, there was just a sense that there was nothing that could be done.  Even the guy in the story who’s all like “It was the 60s” is bumping up against a truth. There has been a massive cultural shift about what children should be expected to tolerate and what white men could do without criticism.

But it also kind of explains why all these institutions are getting hit with all these accusations now–the paradigm has shifted. Sexual molestation isn’t considered “a sad secret thing that inevitably happens to some children, but what can you do? It was a white dude with authority.” anymore. Now it’s widely accepted as wrong.

But it must be strange for those white dudes with authority, who don’t seem to have realized that our culture is tired of them abusing our children (at most) or failing to protect our children from their peers who abused them (at least) and that we’ve changed.

This, honestly, is a good example of how white male authority as wielded in our culture is so damaging to white men, too. It’s a pyramid scheme. Shut up and endure it and some of you will get to be put into positions where you can force others to endure your fucked-up-ness. But, of course, there aren’t enough positions for all the kids fucked with. And no consideration of how damaging it is to fuck with kids. The bargain it demands men strike is one that hurts men.

And now the reckoning is here.

Argh–Project X

I could barely sleep last night. I can barely concentrate right now. Today is the big art discussion. And I’ve been looking at websites of the artists in the collective and they are so talented. I’m so excited and nervous.

And I am nervous and excited because this week I hand the manuscript off to K. for a final quality control check and polish. Not that I’ve been doing this a lot, but I’ve realized that I really need two things that fall under the broad category of “beta reader.” I need folks to read it when I think it’s done (which, for the record, was at the end of December) who can say “Um, no, this doesn’t work. This is wrong. Whoa, I liked this part. etc.” and then I need someone who has never seen it before to both do that and make sure that my grammar and spelling and word choice makes sense when I yet again think that I’m done.

Because I feel like my other beta readers and the project manager now all know what I’m intending. So, I need someone who’s meeting it for the first time to tell me if what I have now makes sense, without the bias of knowing what I’m trying to do.

Ha ha ha. The advice I’m trying to give without actually being in a place to give it is this–deploy your beta readers where and when you need them. If you only need three to triangulate what is wrong with your first final draft, don’t ask the fourth, who will, in all likelihood, just tell you what the other three are saying, but in a slightly different way, because you can use that fourth person when you have your second final draft. Fresh eyes, fresh ideas about what’s not working. (Keeping in mind that I’ve been hashing and rehashing a lot of stuff out with the Project manager at this stage, so it’s like having two in my second set of beta readers.)

Okay, now I have to run around all excited. I’m bringing my camera, because I am determined to be a tourist in my own life. It’s funny. I have heard people say “Don’t be a tourist in your own life,” meaning, don’t just do the things everyone else does, but actually engage and be present in your life. Don’t miss out.

But I kind of want to be a tourist that way. I want to soak this strange place in and see everything there is to see and be open to adventure and not knowing what comes next.

In Which I Wanted to Die But Was Too Embarrassed to Tell the Butcher

My goals for gardening this weekend were to get the sunny end of the big bed ready to yet again be planted with yet again something that may or may not grow.  And to cut the privet out of the big bed. So, turn over and then rake about a 12 foot square patch of dirt and then use my clippers.

Turning over the dirt about killed me. I was out there huffing and puffing and my back was screaming in pain. Every second row I had to rest and wait to feel like I wasn’t going to die. And I was so sorely tempted to go ask the Butcher to just come and do this, because I knew what was taking me twenty minutes would take him five.

But I was so mortified that I wanted to fink out and ask him that I persevered. But I tell you, a lifestyle of sitting on your ass in an office for nine hours a day and then coming home and sitting around the house is not conducive to having your body work how you want it to work. On the other hand, I feel like things aren’t so bad in that I could stop, recuperate, and continue and that I got the whole thing done, got the garden privet-free, and then went on to cut down some other small trees that were where I didn’t want them.

I had thought about pushing it and doing some stuff that I have on my plate for next week, but I don’t want to get into the situation of doing so much that it kind of ruins it for me. Right now I’m having fun doing so much that I am sore and happy and sleep like a log.

So, anyway, these wildflower seeds I have advise you plant half of them two weeks before the last frost date, which I have always assumed was April 15th around these parts. So, half get planted next week. Also, next weekend, I hope to get the hollyhock spot ready for hollyhocks, unearth the garden path, which is under a bunch of leaves, and reset it so that it’s useful, and prepare the fountain for–I’m not sure what. Still!

A Tourist in My Own Life–Project X

I had a minor freak-out yesterday afternoon, because the Project X project manager and I were meeting, in part, to discuss when we could meet with the person in charge of the art. I should have probably guessed by my post here yesterday that I had a lot of anxiety about this part. But it turns out that not only am I nervous about this part becoming real, but I am really nervous about standing in front of artists and not feeling like a total fraud–like their work is so good and I write weird crap.

But, then, as it happened, I walked into Fat Crow Press, which is this amazing shop full of great art and the woman who runs it writes and prints her own children’s books. And she asked what I was up to and I told her about Project X and how I was starting to get a little anxious because, you know, here come the talented artists.

And she was completely the right person I needed in that moment, because she illustrates books, right? So, she told me that it would be great and fabulous and that I would love working with the artists, because it would mean working with people who were trying to make the end thing wonderful.

And that’s completely right.

But, Monday! Monday we’re going to look at art. I am so excited. I want to take a million pictures. I want to look back over those pictures later and remember how I felt right at the moment when I first took them.

The woman at Fat Crow Press sells extra copies of pages from her books (I told you she hand-makes them all) so you can frame them–the illustrated sides, I guess, though you could do the sides that have words on them–and it made me realize that there will be pages to frame from my book.

Don’t mind me. I’ll just be over here being happy.

Some Thoughts about Wolves and Werewolves–Project X

–When someone you know has graciously agreed to be your final possible-werewolf, you will wake up in the middle of the night in a cold panic about whether it’s clear that he’s only been the werewolf a short while, if he’s the werewolf at all, and thus is not possibly a serial killer or if you need to add a line explicitly saying that.

–You will add the line explicitly saying that. Believe me.

Straight men find women framed with red sexier. Hey, there, Little Red Riding Hood, indeed!

–I’m specifically nervous about making sure that Tom’s turn as a suspected werewolf is not embarrassing for him. But I am in general nervous about working with artists. It’s not something that I’ve done before and I am not sure how much I need to be like “Do exactly this” or not. I’m playing it by ear, but my hope is that I can say “Here are the ten things we simply must have, but there’s a lot of other stuff that might catch your imagination or you might have ideas or whatever and I’d love to have that, too.” I was looking through some of the websites of the people I might be working with and their art is just… I can’t even express to you how amazing it is.

I’m trying to be all confident in person, but inside I’m completely intimidated.

–I keep a collection of wolf and werewolf songs–with the exception of “Werewolves of London” which suffers from being too… something… for me to listen to while working. I want to say “evocative” but I find these songs evocative. I think Zevon succeeds in creating a mood that is almost completely opposite of what I want in this particular instance. I mean, he’s a genius, of course. So, yes, he’s not here. Because his magic is too potent. Which sounds corny to say, but there it is. It’s the same reason I wouldn’t, if I were putting together a soundtrack for Project X, stick “Sympathy for the Devil” on it.

–Did I tell you guys Howlin’ Wolf ended up playing a pivotal role in Project X?

–My feeling about this is that either it’s going to be right up your alley and you will love it or it’s going to be too weird and fuck with history in a way that makes you mildly uncomfortable and you won’t like it. There’s no other options, really.

–The other reason the artists make me nervous is that I feel like this is stepping to the edge. Up until now, it’s been fun and wonderful, but if it didn’t work out, well, fine, then I have a weird thing I can stick in a short story collection someday. But once there are artists involved, once you’ve gotten people to commit not to their own vision, but to helping expand mine? There’s no turning back. This has either got to work or hearts will be broken. Mine, especially.

Just an Observation

It’s weird to discover that your life can make no sense in two directions at once–like this terrible mess can be happening on the one hand and on the other hand, you’re being asked if you want to come look at what some local artists are doing to see which ones might be the ones you want to work with.

My soul feels a little like taffy, “how the fuck is this my life?”ing in two directions at once.

The thing that is difficult is that, my whole life, my family has been in a defensive, protective crouch. Bad things are going to happen. Don’t do anything or say anything that might catch the attention of those bad things and make it worse.

And I have a strong instinct to huddle down right now. But it just can’t be done. I have to do this cool shit.

And so, I think, part of what I’m feeling, too, weirdly enough, is guilt. Because I cannot give this situation the attention it deserves. I am all out of more than a handful of shits to give, which I gave last night. And now, I have to focus on this stuff that makes me happy.

There should be a story about a guy who regularly drowns. Like literally dies. And somehow comes back only to drown again. Sincerely drowns and is sincerely dead and then sincerely returns to suffer and go under again, no matter how much help he gets. Would you blame the people who stop throwing life preservers, I wonder?

Have They Returned to Letting Captain Morgan Seduce Everyone With His Eyes?

I’m accepting that the days of Captain Morgan just being sexy as hell are over. Now we have to have stories and adventures. I don’t like it, but the latest Captain Morgan ad at least appears to return to some of the things I liked about the “Captain Morgan instigates an orgy” era ads–Captain Morgan’s face is clearly shown. He uses said face to shoot bemused and somewhat lusty looks at people. And there’s a bit at the end that seems too-self-aware of the homoeroticism of the ads to be an accident. (Though it’s interesting how so many things in the Captain Morgan’s ads that would, in real life, be nightmares–servitude at the time, what really happens when pirates bend you across something and tie you down–are just frosted over into fantasy. I mean, yes, it’s all a fantasy. Those are just the moments when how far the fantasy is from reality is hardest for me to ignore. I do think it’s funny that the rescued guy kind of gives a look of “Oh, you just rescued me for my map.”)

Yes, he’s still running away with someone and from someone. But they’ve at least moved the girl off his lap.

I’m going to be an aunt again.

Project X Update

–Yes, thank goodness I had a back-up werewolf. Who is awesome. And who has challenged me to use “anagosity” in his section. “Anagosity” being a word he found in the wild in use in Nashville and Kentucky back at the turn of the last century. In context it seems to mean something like “someone who knows a little bit about a lot” and is a positive trait. But where it came from and where it went? Hard to say.

–Thoughts have turned to artists. I am freaking the fuck out.

–But I am also super excited.

–And overwhelmed.

–But mostly excited.

Never have I been more relieved to have a backup werewolf than I am today.

Strange Ideas about the Government

So, last night, our ex-juggalo friend posted on Facebook one of these things that’s been going around about how you can’t trust the government. Which, fine. And it starts out all about this guy who had “what you might consider some strange ideas about the government” and then launches into a large diatribe about all the things this guy with strange ideas about the government was put through–entrapment, vilification, the murder of his wife by government agents.

So, right at that point, I realize who this rant is about. And I keep waiting for the rant to acknowledge why people might both feel that dude had a gross injustice committed against him AND not be very excited about using him as an example of how normal people are oppressed by the government. The first time reading through it, I didn’t catch it. So, I read through it again and there, in the part where the rant talks about him being set up for buying illegal guns it slips in his affiliation with the Aryan Nation. But it’s phrased in such a way that it’s also not clear if dude had Aryan Nation affiliations or if that was part of the government set-up. So, that’s it. A brief, ambiguous mention.

And I thought about making a comment. Because I think it’s possible to believe that Randy Weaver got a raw deal (to put it mildly) and that it doesn’t mean he gets to be an unambiguous hero to aggrieved white people, such as our ex-juggalo friend. In fact, I think one of the more minor tragedies of Weaver’s life is that this horrific thing happened to him and, because of who he is, who gives a shit?

But the comment I wanted to make, which I’m afraid I don’t quite have enough nuance for, is that I felt like the rant was a kind of backdoor support of Weaver’s racism, since the whole point was that Weaver had all these “strange ideas” about the government, but look, it turns out he was right, which kind of implies that Weaver might have seemed to have a lot of “strange ideas” about a lot of things, but we should be open to the possibility that he’s right.

But then, you know, I kind of chickened out. Because it was just one of these chain-letter things and I’m 95% sure that our ex-juggalo friend knows nothing more about Randy Weaver than he read in that rant. And I wanted to make an argument like “What happened to Weaver should never have happened, is completely inexcusable, and should have been punished. He’s still wrong, and evilly so, about minorities. He’s nobody’s hero.”

But you know, it turns out that the 5% weighs heavy. I know too many people from back home who are kind of traditionally racist. And I’ve been burned too many times by old high school friends who seem completely normal suddenly posting something about how we should just shoot Mexicans and take their jobs like they shoot “us” and take our jobs. And this dude is an ex-juggalo. It’s not like he’s got a track record of non-dumbass beliefs.

So, I just hid him instead.

I can’t bear to find out that he knows exactly who Weaver is and thinks he’s right.

The Sunny End of the Big Bed

I’m not an expert gardener or anything, but I have pretty good luck sticking live things in the ground and then getting live things to come up. So, I can’t decide what I’m doing wrong at the sunny end of the big bed. But nothing I put there–even with all the amended soil–grows.

This year I’m going to try a mix of wildflowers, sewn directly, as the directions recommend–half on April 1, half on April 15th.

But first I need to dig it and turn it, which I guess means this weekend. And I need to fish the stepping stones for that bed out of the undergrowth and reset them. I try to do it yearly, but I forgot to last year.  And there’s a tiny bit of privet that needs to be cut out.

So, this weekend is the big bed, except for planting. Then next weekend, I hope to do the hollyhocks by the shed. Then the weekend after that is the fountain (though both the fountain project and the hollyhocks are small enough that I might do them both at the same time). I still haven’t decided what to stick in the fountain.

But I’m feeling less overwhelmed than most years, so that’s good.

I Need Guts for Project X

So, here’s where we are–I’ve been through it a bunch. The project director went through it once and suggested a few big changes. I made them. He went through it again and suggested some minor changes and I made them. He and I are going to talk on Friday about some stuff and then it’s ready to go to K.

Except… at the end of the book, the narrator goes looking for someone who would be an expert not only on official Nashville history, but someone who would know the lore and gossip from the past 200+ years. And then there’s some question about whether this person is a werewolf. But an incredibly classy werewolf who deals with the lycanthropy as if it is just one unfortunate turn of events among many that might befall a man in this particular time and in this particular place.

(I really love this because it manages to really leave open-ended what happened to the narrator before this–did the Devil kill her? Did she stop hunting the werewolf because it effectively went away when it became this person? etc.–while still letting the story move on.)

So, I need a historian up on fact and lore from an old Nashville family, one who is classy, but has a good sense of humor. And I’d like him to be a real person. So, the person that is is pretty obvious.  It’s Ridley Wills II.

But, you guys, I am so being a giant chicken about asking him if he minds if I make him the last known werewolf in my book. Which means, right now, it’s all set up to be him without obviously being him. No name, enough plausible deniability. But it’s not what I want. Either I want it to be him, really him, or I’ll rework it and ask, say, Tom Wood if he’d mind being the werewolf. I want it to be a real person, though, and I want it to be a real person that, when people see his name, they’d say “Yep, you know, if I had any questions about whether there were stories about there being a werewolf in Nashville, that is one of the people I’d think to ask.”

Why am I being such a baby about it?!

Okay, folks, now I’ve told you. I have to do it. I’m going to track down a physical or email address for him today and ask him. If he says “no,” I’m going to ask Tom.

I Need to Learn to Honk

This morning, as I was coming into work, a person tried to change lanes right into me. I yelled, and swerved, and avoided getting hit. And then like five minutes later, it occurred to me that I should have honked.

But you know, I wish science would look into the feeling you get while driving that a driver is going to do something stupid. Because what saved me, really, is that I was already watching that person closely, because something about the car–which was just a red late model Toyota Camry, nothing strange–pinged my “keep an eye on that car” sense when it came onto Clarksville Pike from the Ashland City road. So, when a half a block later, it tried to enter my lane right where my car was, I was not surprised. I mean, I was surprised, but I already was watching that car for signs of idiocy.

But I’m not sure what about the way the person made that turn tipped me off that there could be a problem.

A Brief Thing about Copyright

I love academics, don’t get me wrong. And I have little fondness for the publishers mentioned in this post. That being said, I feel like academics need to start having serious conversations about copyright and other kinds of licensing options, like, say, creative commons amongst themselves, before they start complaining and writing letters to publishers about how it somehow should just be obvious when publishers should enforce copyright and when they should not.


If you want your materials to be made available in emerging markets in clear violation of copyright, then you need to either specify that kind of exception in your contract or arrange some other kind of intellectual property rights agreement with your press.

I know of an author–a first-time author–who wanted his book, which is on teaching students to write using wikis, to be able to be uploaded and dissected and transformed by said students on said wikis and he wanted tech people to feel confident that they could reproduce whole chunks in efforts to either spread what he was doing or rail against it.

You know whose book the publisher doesn’t fret about when students copy it for a course pack? His. Why? Because he told them in the contract not to.

But this idea that you sign a contract with a publisher full of stuff all about the copyright arrangements between you and then you complain publicly when copyright is enforced? It’s idiotic.

It’s also idiotic to frame it in terms of money. The issue here isn’t whether you’re getting cheated out of some tiny amount of royalties. It’s whether your intellectual property rights are being protected the way everyone’s agreed they should be.

(Also, in today’s world, it’s quite easy to provide coursepacks for students that are affordable and ensure everyone is happy.)

My Neighbor Negged Me

Here is some important background you need to know. We used to have really awesome neighbors, who then had a couple of kids and moved down the road a way into a bigger house. They now rent their house to a couple I, until yesterday, had almost no opinion of. I did have an opinion, which was “The wife seems nice, the husband seems like he’s a mean drunk.” That was enough for me to basically avoid them. And, when I do see them or hear them, it’s either when they’re going to work when I’m walking the dog or when they’re yelling at each other. Also, my old awesome neighbor now owns my old lawnmower, since he was the only one who could keep it running when I owned it and he needed a lawnmower. He tried, recently, to pay me for it, but I refused, because, as far as I’m concerned, he saved me the bulk trash pick-up. That he later got it and kept it working is just his good luck.

Anyway, yesterday, I’m in the flower bed under the trees, cutting down privet and the dude comes over, “What are you doing?” “Cutting down privet.” What was your name again?” “Betsy.” “Oh, right. I don’t know why I can’t remember that. I know it. Hey, didn’t you say you worked at Vanderbilt?” “Yes.” “What do you think about them hating Christians?”

So, we get into this incredibly uncomfortable discussion in which I try solely to focus on the idea that he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who likes the government telling him what to do–and he doesn’t–so he should be uncomfortable with the government setting the definition of Christianity. And I keep repeating that the State doesn’t get to say who’s a Christian. And he’s all “It’s not a problem. It’s obvious who’s a Christian. John 3:16. There’s no problem. It’s obvious.”

Until finally he says, “Well, I don’t want to argue about politics or religion when I’m drinking.” People. He came into my yard! And then he says, “But my brother is a minister, a real minister, who went to school and everything.”

And that’s how he ends the argument. I kept waiting for him to say “And my brother says…” but no. Just the end to the “discussion” is that his brother is a minister. Like that counts for anything when it comes to his opinions.

And then we enter phase two of the bizarro conversation. He goes off to the bathroom or something and his wife is explaining how they don’t like their landlord to mow their lawn, because they think he does a crappy job. So whenever the weather is nice, she mows the lawn so that, when my old neighbor calls to say he’ll come by in the morning to mow it, she can tell him it’s already done.

Then the dude comes back out. He’s explaining how he finally convinced our old neighbor to let him put vegetable beds in the front yard, where it’s sunny. And then he says–and this is where I thought, “Hmm, I’m being negged, here, like some chick in a pick-up-artist’s sights”–“Your yard looks like shit. No offense. But I can tell that [the Butcher] doesn’t really care about it.” Then he proceeds to tell me all the things wrong with my lawn and all the ways that the Butcher is obviously failing to maintain it. And I’m all like “Well, maybe, but the yard’s his thing and I’m not going to stand over him and make sure he does it how you’d want it done.” Which you’d think would be a huge clue to just back the fuck off, since even saying it outloud sounds so fucked the fuck up. But no, it’s like he doesn’t even hear me. He’s all going on about how he can tell that the Butcher doesn’t sharpen the blades enough and the blades are probably ruined by now and I should just expect to pay to replace them. About how he’s been dying to do something about/with my greenhouse and why hasn’t the Butcher chopped down the trees around it?

And on and on about how much the Butcher sucks and he’s sorry to be saying it and about how shitty my yard looks and he’s sorry to be saying that.

And then comes the offer–“I’ll maintain your mower and mow your lawn, too, if you let me use the mower to mow my lawn.. Just think about it.”

And then, I got the sense that he realized that, if I thought more about it, I was going to run screaming into the night, because he was all “I don’t mind. I used to be a landscape guy.” Etc. All this stuff about how he was well-qualified to do it.

But let me repeat, he’s insulting my yard and my brother in order to get his hands on my mower because he wants to use it to mow his yard, which his landlord would prefer to mow. His landlord, who has always been good to us and who we like. And the dude is offering to mow our lawn, even though his wife has already admitted to me that she’s the one who mows theirs! So, really, he’s trying to make some “deal” on her behalf.

And did I also mention that, in the whole course of this bizarre conversation, he’s also telling me about all the guns he owns and the things he likes to shoot? (And let me be clear, I didn’t take this as a threat about “So, I could kill you if you don’t go along with my weird lawnmower scheme” but more about how he was, I think, trying to demonstrate how powerful he was.) And about how there’s just some stuff I don’t know about the world, since I’m from here? (Which I also thought seemed like a pick-up artist move–to confidently make guesses about a person that make it seem like you know more about her than you possibly could.)

The whole thing just felt like: Step one: put B. on the defensive with some bizarro argument. Step two: insult her lawn and the ability of “her man” to properly maintain it. Step three: demonstrate power and prowess. Step four: demonstrate a mastery of things she couldn’t possibly have. Step five: get her to give us her lawnmower.

The whole thing was just… ugh… so fucking weird. And the whole time it was happening, he had his shirt off and was just rubbing his belly.

And I came inside and I just felt like I’d been in-person attacked by an internet troll.