Find-a-Grave to the Rescue

So, I’m at the point where Sue and her sister get into a carriage and go to Maury County. It needed to be majorly rewritten, because you can’t get to Maury County from the Frist Center in one day in a horse-drawn carriage. But I then began to worry that you might not be able to get to the home of a son of William Macon’s (remember William owned Jack Macon, the “widow” of whom has sent Sue to find her mother). But I have never been able to successfully ascertain where the Macons houses were in Maury County. So, I’ve felt uncertain about whether it was even a trip that could be done in two days.  Too far past Columbia and probably not.

How to find those fucking Macons? Now, obviously, if there were an easy way to find out exactly, I would have done it by now. So, the question is–is there a ballpark way? And then I got to thinking–I’m talking about people who lived before 1850. There are only three places they’re going to stick their dead people–1. in their yard, 2. in their church’s yard, in which case I have a neighborhood for them, or 3. in the city’s cemetery, in which case I learn they lived in town.

So, I Find-a-Grave all the Macons in Maury County and they’re all in the Zion Presbyterian Cemetery. Now I know they had to be within a few miles of here in order to attend church here. Ta-da. And who should be in that cemetery but John Macon himself, father of William Macon, owner of Dr. Jack. Though I’m sure it’s entirely a coincidence that William had a slave almost his same exact age named a nickname of his father’s own name. Nothing to see here, folks. Anyway, so I don’t know exactly where they were, but that’s close enough for fiction.

My Blues Have Lifted

I tell you what, there’s nothing like the friends who will listen to you tell you you’re right to be worried and then tell you you’re right that you just have to keep your mouth shut and let things play out.

It’s a hard line for me to walk. So much of our family dynamic is always “keep your mouth shut and let things play out” even when you’re like “Oh my god, why is no one even saying anything about that terrible situation?!” and so I’ve kind of tried to be the kind of person who is loudly shouting “Look at this thing!!!” (you may have gathered).

So, trying to learn not only the skill of pointing out what needs to be pointed out AND the skill of letting things play out without butting in when that’s the appropriate course of action is not easy for me.

But apparently a necessary one.

Screwed by the Witch’s Tit

So, I was supposed to get it off today. (Did you know the cooter doctor now has no co-pay for annual visits? Thanks, Obama!) But it’s fucked me over. Because it’s kind of torn at the base, it’s got a little yucky spot of irritation on my thigh. So, I have to Neosporin it and then, instead of just being shaved off, the cooter doctor is going to have to cut into my thigh a little to make sure there’s no infection.

Yes, I will be spending the next three weeks trying to heal my witch’s tit so that it is healthy enough to be removed.

I didn’t ask her if it was possible that the irritation was caused by the Devil suckling on it while I sleep, but that’s only because obviously that’s what’s gone wrong here.

I tell you, people, getting older is just a fucking wonderland of weird ass shit that your body does for no reason.

But, apparently, the witch’s tit has chosen cooter-side seats because it is warm and moist there, which, let’s be frank, is why the Devil would be hanging out there, too.

So, there you have it.I have to continue to suckle The Beast, which you know means motherfucking Glen Danzig is going to just creepily stand in my closet sniffing my bras, which is what Glen Danzig does while the Devil harasses you. It’s a whole thing. Glen Danzig sniffs your bras in your closet. Your cats recite “Stairway to Heaven” backwards. Lord Byron eats all your potato salad and then demands more. It’s terrible. Never get a motherfucking witch’s tit.

As Close As You’re Going to Come to the World’s Greatest Potato Salad

My roommate in grad school made a potato salad that tasted like I imagine french kissing an angel must taste–slightly sweet, slightly sour, and there’s bacon. This is not that potato salad, because she does not give out the recipe. But it is the potato salad equivalent of french kissing someone who’s french kissed an angel.

Okay, here’s what you’ll need:

4 medium potatoes

4 hard boiled eggs

6 strips of cooked bacon

1 cup Miracle Whip

1 heaping tablespoon of yellow mustard

at least 1 teaspoon of relish

salt, pepper, paprika,

Here’s what you do. Cut those potatoes up into bite-sized pieces and throw them in a pot of salted water and cook them until they’re done but still firm (about 15 minutes, give or take). If you time it right, you can do the eggs first and then use the fifteen minutes they have to stand to cook the potatoes. I’m not quite that talented, but if you are, it saves a bunch of time. Plus it helps if someone cooked a pound of bacon for breakfast, but saved you out the six pieces you need. Otherwise, your cooking is going to run you a half an hour.

Now, in a large bowl, put your Miracle Whip and your yellow mustard. Stir those together. Now, put in your tablespoon of relish. Give it a taste. If you like relish, feel free to add more, up to a tablespoon of it. Stir and taste. You’re going to want a little pinch of pepper, a generous half teaspoon of paprika, and to stir again. You want to taste it before you add the salt while keeping in mind that you’re about to add a butt load of bacon and add just a pinch of salt. Remember, you can always add salt. You cannot take it away. And bacon is salty.

Okay, cut your bacon into bite-sized pieces and stir it in there. Now your eggs are probably ready and your potatoes could probably use another five minutes. Cold water your eggs and then peel them and cut them into bite sized pieces and throw them in your bowl and stir. Check your potatoes, which are probably done. Drain them and then add about a third at a time to your bowl so that you can get them coated.

Oh, damn it. It occurs to me that your pot to cook the potatoes in was probably a huge stew pot–bigger than your bowl. If you throw everything in your pot to stir it and then just move it back to your bowl to store it, you won’t have to be so dainty.

But that’s it. The general principle is that you’re making what amounts to deviled egg innards, but scaled way up, with bacon, and smothered over potatoes.

Put it in the fridge and try to wait until it’s chilled before eating.

And, note, the easiest way to vary this recipe is just by changing the type of relish you use. I usually use sweet, but we only had hot relish in the fridge and it is also delicious.

End of Watch

I came home to find the Butcher and the Red-headed Kid a little less than halfway into End of Watch, so I got sucked into it. It’s so fucking sad. Jesus Christ. I have no idea why people watch sad movies. I avoid it if at all possible. Life is sad enough as it is. Why spend money to cry?

But, other than that, the parts you’ve heard were good are really good. The relationship between the two guys feels like a natural, ordinary guy friendship and, as such, feels really beautiful and special.

Still, lord, who wants to be reminded that, behind every moment of love and joviality and light-heartedness is just the unrelenting spectre of death? Not me.

I sense a trend that this year is going to be filled with things I have really ambiguous feelings about.


Beautiful Things

Over on Twitter, emjb sent me a link to these things that are so beautiful I just about can’t stand it. I wish I had artistic talent in this vein, because I would love to make one of these.

I was worried Lord Bateman wouldn’t end up with the Turkish chick, I admit.

Controlling Girls

It’s not just that it’s obviously a lie that having sex with eight people makes you like a cup everyone in a classroom has spit in that angers me. It’s that, at this point, not a single sex-educator in this land can pretend like he or she doesn’t know how terrible this rhetoric is for victims of sexual abuse, because Elizabeth Smart has said so. So, as of right now, even if they weren’t smart enough to get that before, they now know. Which means that, when they spout this shit, it’s literally more important to scare kids out of having sex than it is to have compassion for abuse victims.

Never mind how gross I find it that a woman who is in charge of a place that convinces girls to give up their babies for adoption gets a platform in public schools to convince girls to give their babies up for adoption and no one seems bothered by her vested interest. Of course these women are opposed to abortion and birth control. They need desperate pregnant girls to supply babies for them.

It’s in their best interest for teenage girls to have no knowledge about how to keep from getting pregnant and no option but to carry the pregnancy to term if they become pregnant, because they want those babies.

And they still get framed as the good guys.

Miserably Happy

You guys, I had such a nice weekend. But I also am covered in bug bites, the worst of which are places I picked ticks off. I spent yesterday sleeping in and then writing a Pith post and working on a baby blanket for my cousin and working on the Sue Allen project. And then I went to bed early. It was lovely. Except for the seed ticks I had to pick off.

Seed ticks are the devil. The big black ones are annoying, but you can feel those. But those little red seed ticks will get right in the creases of your knees or at the leg band of your underpants and just… ugh… The Butcher told me he once found a seed tick on his dick. I was like “And you still go outside?!” Because, I tell you, the first time I find a tick in my vagina, that will be the moment I start walking outside with a flamethrower. Just FSSSHHHHHHHSSSHHHHHH to clear burn a twelve-foot radius of charred death around me wherever I go.

A tick on your genitals is how anti-environmental super villains get started. It’s an origin story no one would argue with.

Perhaps I should add that in to the Sue Allen project. The villain is evil, but it’s understandable because he once had a tick on his dick. It makes him sympathetic, I think.

God, I hope The Butcher doesn’t become a supervillain now.

Anyway, I have to laugh a little bit because, revising the Sue Allen project, I’ve come to realize that the ending still doesn’t work for me. It’s still where my hang-up is. But, the switch in narrator and my desire to focus on the characters who change means probably the middle third is going to change majorly and then the last third… I’m going to end up rewriting it again.

But let me just explain my failure to you. My goal in the old structure of the book was to briefly introduce you to John and his dad here in the present. Then we switch to focusing solely on Sue and her life at which point John reenters the narrative as the bad guy. Kind of like Hemlock Grove. But, while I don’t think that Sue’s story is actually that boring, the absence of John isn’t as much mysterious as it is confusing.

So, instead, I’m reshaping the story so that the narrative focus is on these two women who both see ghosts and who share a complicated relationship with both a ghost and Lee Overton.

I think it works better, but it’s a strange process–creating a first draft of something out of a failed eighth draft of another. I’m not sure how revisions are going to go.


MabryThe Butcher and I were trying to decide if there’s ever been a group of U.S. veterans with so much on the lin

The Tick God

How many ticks can you find suckling at your breasts before you accept that you are, to them, the nurturing life-giver and the destroyer of worlds?



How about three motherfucking ticks on my boobs.. Latched on to my boobs.

I need therapy. Years and years of therapy.

I know they decided that we don’t need a new federal courthouse, but would it be too much to ask for them to rejigger the outside of it to look more like what was there? It’s a cosmetic change that would really improve that part of downtown.

If I Seem Sluggish

You guys, the Butcher has been in such a cleaning frenzy for our company (let me be clear, his company) this weekend that he didn’t buy me any Diet Dr. Pepper yesterday, which meant that I was forced to drink A&W Cream Soda for the minute bit of caffeine it contains.

I have never, in my life, had a cream soda. Frankly, it sounds disgusting.

But it was, actually, not quite that bad. I mean, it was fine. It’s just that I’m used to starting my day with the metallic taste of artificial sweeteners and it didn’t have any.

But I’ll note that the cats got their favorite kind of food. Somehow he remembered that.

Ben & Sue: Keeping Things Moving

I’ve made a massive change–John is now a woman. Well, a girl. But he’s she. Martha, called Moll. And, like John was, she’s our narrator. John isn’t completely gone, I don’t think, since I need my narrator to move freely through the Reconstructed South. But he’s just an identity, I think, not a character.

The part that I more need to fix in this draft (9th for those counting at home) is how to keep momentum. I really enjoy thinking about what it would be like to spend time with these character just walking around a Nashville that kind of looks familiar and kind of doesn’t. But I need a driving reason to include these stories and not others. And I think having a stronger narrator will make that happen. I hope, anyway. I’m kind of freaked out about it. But it must be done.

I think, anyway.

I’m going to give myself a month to see if this change in perspective helps.

Project X: My Birthday


My parents keep making me think up things for them to give me at various culturally appropriate times. So, I decided that I might want a print of a crow from Fat Crow Press, which is one of my favorite places in town. But when I was talking to her a few weeks ago, she told me she was going to have smaller, less expensive prints of two crows. Well, two crows are just about as good as two ravens. I’m going to hang these puppies right below The Hanged Man in the dining room and let those who know what they’re seeing have a nice smile about it.

Anyway, after we went and picked up the print, we stopped by East Side Story and one of the artists for Project X was there and we got to talking and… lord… she’s going to be perfect. And it was awesome to see how excited she was getting just hearing about it from me.

Things are moving along. And so I guess that’s good. I mean, it’s good. It’s just a bunch of stuff that’s out of my hands. So, that part’s scary. But cool.

Accidental Phone Calls

My aunt called me, meaning to call my mom. But it turned out, I was good enough. I got to hear all about their new dog, how fat my dad is (don’t get me started), how he needs to do their diet, how their daughter needs to do their diet, how it’s not a diet*, etc. I faked a 1 o’clock when the conversation turned, for some reason, to politics.

But I was glad to hear her say “Jooo-lie,” which was my Grandma Phillips’s pronunciation as well. Sadly, I say “Juh-lie.” Even in “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” I sing “born on the fourth of Juh-lie” even though obviously being born on the fourth of Jooo-lie would go better with being a “Doodle.”



*A diet is just what you eat. I am willing to believe that the part of their new way of eating that is “You can either stop eating carbs and see if that will lower your blood sugar or I’m going to start pumping you full of insulin” is a diet in that sense. The part where they’re required to drink two hundred ounces of liquid a day, but can do it in coffee if they so choose, is a fad diet, in the “let’s all lose a bunch of weight our bodies can’t possibly keep off long term” sense. So, I have my concerns.

Holy Crap, What a Mess!

I was going to spend all day yesterday reading The True Believer, but, at the last minute, I decided to go spend some time with John Overton, just to see what would be involved with getting back into it.

Holy shit! It’s a complete mess.

Reading it, I was struck by both how truly good parts are and how long just boring shit happens–boring shit I was happy to write, but boring shit. There’s no narrative urgency. People wander around and they do shit and they do shit for a reason, but reading it, it really felt like mostly a train being pushed from the back, not pulled from the front.

It’s kind of scary because I feel like, in order to fix it, I’m going to have to not just rewrite it, but reimagine it. John and his dad may need to go back earlier. John definitely needs to participate more in the past. And, no matter how good it is, some of the Sue stuff probably needs to come out.

But, on the other hand, I feel strangely grateful that things have worked out this way–if I hadn’t had the time off working on Project X and the short stories, I wouldn’t have the distance to see this.

Little Old Betsy

I was having some really, really massive anxiety about turning thirty-nine. Like, you know those nights where you can’t get to sleep and you start thinking about what it will be like to die and whether it will be scary and whether it will hurt and whether you will really exist in some way after you do and you are both struck by terror at the thought that you might and that you might not? And you sit there, filled with existential dread, because there’s no way to chicken out?

That’s how I felt about turning thirty-nine.

The thing is that I’m closing off avenues, passing by streets that I am never going to take. And, obviously, if I wanted to take those streets, I could have. So, on the one hand, I’m fine with not having gone down them. I am freaked the fuck out by the visceral realization that some of them are closed off to me forever. Can’t change my mind, make my way back to them, and take that path instead. I made these choices, so I don’t have those other ones.

I think the reason this bothers me is that I think a lot about my Grandma Doris, still alive and kicking, her mind still mostly working, her body still mostly working, singing her camp songs to herself each night as she goes to sleep in her big bed, because, when you’re ninety-two, that’s who’s left who can still sing you the songs you knew as a child–you.

Barring accident, I’m someday going to be a little old lady, like my grandmothers. And I don’t know why, exactly, but it weighs so heavily on me that I am making choices right now that will affect the ease of little-old-lady-hood of her/me, that woman who will be the one who remembers the songs my grandma sang me, who knows all the stories I know and will tell them back to me, there, in the dark, as we’re waiting for sleep to come.

I want to put us in the best possible situation. But, if I’m fucking up somehow, in some way I can’t quite see, the time is literally growing short in which I can fix that shit. If I even can. If I’ve made some wrong choices with dire consequences, it’s too late now–not to mention how late it will be when I realize it–to fix it.

That scares the shit out of me.

And yet, what can you do? One day follows another. You can’t stop it from happening. You slide through days like you slide through an icy intersection, pointing your life in the direction you hope to go, hoping you’ll get there in one piece.

So, it’s my birthday. And I’m glad. And not as freaked out as I was yesterday.

Happy Birthday from the Butcher

I’m not saying that I’m going to send this thing to staff meetings as my proxy. But I’m considering it.

Let’s Be Honest about Paul for a Second

Paul is an asshole. He was an asshole when he was Saul and he was an asshole after the incident on the road to Damascus. He’s the only Christian whose martyrdom was probably a result of having annoyed the shit out of everyone standing within 100 yards of him, and not his religion. It’s nice of people to pretend he was crucified upside down, but I personally believe the beheading version, because who would want to listen to him gripe for the hours it takes to die by crucifixion?

Anyway, this doesn’t mean that Paul wasn’t an effective leader–effective leaders tend to be giant assholes. In fact, if I were speculating on why Paul was given the job of setting up and setting on their ways so many early churches, I would bet it was this particular personality quirk that made him stand out as an effective leader. In other words, he excelled at what he did because he was a giant asshole with a singular vision for how to set up and run the organization necessary to perpetuate a belief system.

I don’t remind you that Paul was an asshole in order to discredit the good he did. But I do remind you that, before you say, “Well, it says in the Bible…” that many books in the New Testament were written by a giant asshole and that, whenever the giant asshole says something, it needs to be weighed against the words in red. If they go along with what the words in red say, run with it. If they contradict the words in red or seem to contradict the spirit of the words in red, then just blow it off.

Or start calling your religion Paulianity, just so everyone knows where you stand.

There are No Grownups


I remember my friends’ parents turning 40. It seemed impossibly grown-up. Like, oh, there you have a house with a yard and a family and your kids are getting ready to go to college and you have thoughts and opinions about grown-up things and have insights and blah blah blah.

Tomorrow, I turn 39 and I’m kind of freaked out about it. The difference between being 15 and being 25 is so vast. It’s easy to say that you obviously are a different person at 25 than you are at 15. But, after that, there doesn’t seem to be any more great universal change. Bad things happen. Good things happen. And they refine you. But there doesn’t appear to be any more grown up you get once you’re there.

This is it. The pudding is set.

That really freaks me the fuck out. This is it. This is what me as a grown-up is.

I can’t decide if I was hoping for something better or not.

Why Do They Live There?

Last night, on Twitter, some people were asking why people would continue to live in Tornado Alley. I think this is a pretty common misconception here in the United States, that Tornado Alley is some narrow sliver of the county and the rest of us are somehow “outside of Tornado Alley.” Like it’s a real alley and shaped like one.

But here’s every tornado in the past 60 years. Shall we all go live in the Rockies? Shall everyone move to the southeastern corner of Oregon?

There is no “there” where “they” are and “we” are not.