Good Day

Let’s just be honest–rejections suck. Rejections when you’ve had a couple of successes are their own kind of hell, because you sit around wondering if you’re the literary equivalent of Vanilla Ice, who had albums of material to record that he must have thought was as catchy and good as “Ice, Ice Baby” but now he’s on DIY network rehabbing houses. How do you know when its time to put down your keyboard and pick up your hammer?

I don’t know, people. I just don’t know.

Anyway, I got a nice rejection the other day–the kind that’s like “We liked this, but it’s not quite right for us.” This gives you hope that there is some place out there for which it is quite right. Anyway, so then, today I finally got around to sending it out again. And, of course, I reread it before sending it out, just to make sure it didn’t have typos or whole stupid parts or anything.

And I finished it and I liked it! I said, “Yep, that’s a good story.” And I felt good about it.

Lessons from the Sanborn Fire Map

I often wondered why Zora Neale Hurston would have been living with her brother on Lafayette, while he attended Meharry. But today I learned that Meharry used to be the medical college for Central Tennessee College, which was right on Lafayette. Brother Hurston could walk to classes.

I Thought This Was Fake, But I Guess Not

When this first popped up on the internet, I thought, “There’s no way this is real.” But it seems more and more likely that it’s not.

So, let’s all sit here in stunned silence for a second.

Okay, let’s be frank. Their graphic designer is a double agent, right? Nothing else makes sense. I mean, if you asked me to believe two scenarios–1. Someone working for an anti-gay organization made this and genuinely believed it looked like someone praying; vs. Some poor artistic dude really, really needs a job and this was the one he could get, but he hates their mission so he works from inside to undermine them, and voila we get this.–the first scenario just seems so implausible to me that I can’t even entertain it seriously. It simply must be the second.

Things Happened

–I got some writing I feel good about done.

–I got my stitches out.

–I got half my prescriptions filled.

–I got to the bookstore to get my check, but left without remembering to get my check.

–So, I have some things to try to reaccomplish tomorrow.

I talked to the Butcher this morning. He’s not pleased with my nephew. It’s rough. On the one hand, his life is hard and he just found out that he’s not going to be the youngest Phillips. On the other hand, you get to be twelve or so and you’re starting to practice for the kind of person you’re going to be.

I hope this is just a rough patch for him. And I hope he gets through it without long-lasting repercussions.

I Don’t Feel Sleepy, I Just Feel Like Lying Down

The older I get, the more I think this is my favorite Joan Osborne song. It’s somehow sexy and menacing at the same time.

See?! This version really gets right to it:

It’s like, unfortunately, you’re going to die (the subtext being: I may have to kill you), so let’s fuck until you do.

When the Bad Mood Breaks

I’m still scared as shit about my life at the moment and somewhat dispirited about writing (hence the lack of it). But yesterday, I guess I was just done being a fucking mess. Because things seemed genuinely funny to me again. And I heard from a bunch of people I care about. And I read good poetry. And I went to the grocery store, which was a big part of feeling better.

Here’s the thing. In the past, when we’ve been short on cash, we’ve been short on cash, which meant eating one peanut butter and jelly sandwich at lunch and rice for dinner and just feeling grouchy and deprived and miserable. I am not that broke these days. When I eat out at lunch, I spend between $10 and $15. I can get a lot of shit to bring with me from home for $5-$6 and be saving a bunch of money and not feel deprived.

My goal is to do nothing extra for July. No socializing that will cost me money. And then I’ll see where that leaves me at the end of July. Hopefully with a good picture of how much socializing I can do that does cost money.

I was telling my co-worker yesterday that I think part of what makes tough times tough is that, though, objectively, this isn’t so bad–a little belt-tightening with an end goal in sight–for me, the feeling of staring into an empty cabinet and not only having no idea what I’m going to eat, not just that evening, but for the rest of the month, is real. It’s a real thing I went through.

And I don’t think, because food is such a necessary thing, it’s a feeling you ever forget. So, even just a little ordinary belt-tightening in order to meet a goal feels like it’s going to lead straight back to that place where you’re sobbing on the front steps before you go in the house because you’re trying to put on a brave face once you get in the house.

It’s hard to convince my lizard brain that these times are not those times. Well, not hard. Impossible. But there’s something nice about going to the grocery store, loading up for the week, and seeing that your grocery bill is less than the cost of eating out for lunch every day.

So, July. I’m going to let myself be sad AND I’m going to try to get some things back on track–like writing and, hell, even planning for October, which I have given almost no thought to.

KITSUNE by Jessamyn Johnston Smyth

I finished this chapbook and promptly died of jealousy. It’s so good. Can I just quote you a lovely part?

everything, everything for me has conspired

to make of me a person of no

and by sheer vexed stubbornness I am determined

to continually say yes, yes, come closer, yes

Christ, it’s all that matters

So, the poems are all on a theme–and that theme is about a shape-shifting lover. And there’s something very performative about the whole thing. I’d say theatrical, but it kind of reminded me of The Pillow Book. Like there’s a kind of detached framing and then each poem kind of plunges you right into a dramatic, emotional moment.

On Facebook she said that this is part of a larger grouping of poems all about shapeshifting lovers. I now cannot wait. Anyway, you can buy it here, if you’re looking for some poems about a fox-dude.

I want to say, too, that I really like poetry, even some of the more typical poetic stuff that a lot of people hate. So, I feel like my endorsement of something might make you instead dread to read it. But Smyth’s language is just like in that excerpt–somehow it’s the language of everyday, but slightly skewered. You don’t have to work really hard to understand what she’s saying, but the poems are sturdy enough to withstand rereading.

Many Thoughts

–The Butcher is helping my parents move. You couldn’t pay me enough to be there for that. Good luck, Butcher.

–In talking to the Butcher about our cousins, he said “The thing some of us don’t get is that no one would put up with this shit if we didn’t have to.” Yep.

–I cannot believe what happened in Texas! So very cool. I am proud and in awe.

–I cannot believe that Paula Deen didn’t settle this lawsuit a million years ago and slap a non-disclosure agreement on the woman suing her. I just don’t understand it.

–And I can’t believe her dumbass sons are going to sink their careers trying to argue that their mom isn’t racist. Or, my god, if you can’t admit that, go ahead and say something like “Our mom is a good woman who we love dearly. But, obviously, she has said and done some incredibly hurtful things without realizing just how hurtful they were.” It’d still smell like bullshit, but it’d be in the ballpark of the truth.

–The Butcher ran over one of our new hazelnuts. The other one is dead. I’m hoping for a miracle where the hazelnut somehow comes back from this.

–I’m kind of excited about a rural resort. Better than a bunch of housing developments.

History Folks, What Do You Make of This?

Here’s the marriage information the Feds gathered on my Great-Great-Grandpa and Grandma, in order to make sure they weren’t infecting the world with their deafness (not all the information, just the relevant part I want to ask you about):

marriage recordNote that it’s pretty clear that they had four children and all are living. This is, in fact, how we found out about Clyde. My Dad and Uncle remembered Ralph and Barlow, but did not know Clyde.

But check the 1870 Census:

1870That’s Oscar’s brother Alfred and his family and right next door is Oscar and Mary. If we had any doubts, look and see that they are deaf and dumb. And there is Caribel.

Now check 1880:

1880Now Oscar lives next door to his in-laws, the Hildreths. and we can see all his kids–Grandpa Hildreth has Barlow with him, and there’s Bell, Ralph, and Frank, Clyde not yet being born. After this, I can’t find Caribel. She vanishes. She should be listed on that special census, at least. Even if she died.

Now, my dad told me that Mary’s dad married her off to Oscar because she was pregnant, and the story he’d heard was that this was the result of a rape. But this doesn’t quite fit the timeline–they were married in ’67 and Caribel came along in ’69. Now, it’s possible that they fudged their marriage date to legitimize Caribel, but then, why not include her in their list of children? If she’d just shown up when she was ten, I might have figured her for a cousin sent to help with the kids because she could hear. But she’s there in 1870.

Any ideas on who she might be?

I Think a Lot about Robert Plant

Or at least how he represents himself in interviews these days. There are two things I think a lot about. They go together. One is how open he is to new things, how excited he is to try things he hasn’t tried before, to sing songs he hasn’t sung before, to hang back and not always be the front man, and to be open to the pleasure in seeing your friends do great things. This is the kind of old person I want to be, even if I don’t have Robert Plant’s considerable success beforehand.

Last night, I talked to my cousin. It’s sometimes hard for me to talk to my cousin, because he and I are a lot alike in ways that embarrass me about myself. Once, he told me that there was something about our family that seems large and mythic (a thought I regularly entertain) and that it was like we were “from the Bible” (another thought I have entertained, but have, over the years, disregarded as stupid). And yet, I don’t think my cousin is stupid. So, you can see how it brings up a weird kind of dissonance for me. I get how attractive these ideas are, because I have them. And yet, it’s easier to see in him how these ideas stand in the way of him being happy.

I mean, how can someone caught up in a myth be happy? When the gods have you by the shoulders, what peace is there?

Anyway, last night we were briefly talking about our dead cousin’s son, who keeps making half-hearted efforts to meet up with my cousin and then flaking out at the last minute. My dead cousin was basically raised by my cousin’s dad, who took him in when his parents got divorced. So, at that level, there’s a lot of love but a LOT of heartache. For various reasons I won’t get into. My cousin’s dad is also no always easy to get along with. He’s got a big heart, but he makes sure it hurts to ever reach it. And my cousin’s dad has said some unforgivable things about my dead cousin’s grandchildren (the niece and nephew of the flaking cousin). Now, I don’t think my cousin even knows about that, but if he does know, it’s not like there’s some physical score-keeping place where he can mark down that he disagrees with the sentiment. All my flaking cousin can know is that our side of the family has been a source of pain for his family his whole life.

So, he flakes. But my cousin seems convinced that there’s more to it–that something is going on in his home or that he’s got some issues or blah blah blah. It can’t just be that he’s afraid to open himself back up to the potential for that pain.

But that’s all background for the part that scared the shit out of me. My cousin said he was going to keep trying in hopes that he could reach him eventually and then bring him back into our family which would be for the good of everyone.

I don’t quite know how to convey what scared the shit out of me. I guess it’s the way he said “the family”–again like there’s something that is “The Phillipses” that you can be in or out of, some core around which we all rotate. This Godfather stuff my mom pointed out when she was here. Like we’re a gang.

And, yes, I’ve been thinking a lot about this because it stuck with me when my mom said it, but I do think that the Phillipses do, in some ways, function like a mafia family in decline. And if only some great leader can emerge and take control, we can have things back how they were when there was money and family get-togethers and life centered around Battle Creek.

But it’s also the way he was so sure about what the right thing to do was. I heard in his voice something that I feel like I hear in my voice sometimes, that I know I hear in my father’s voice and in my uncle’s voice–this surety. We’re so used to feeling like we’re so smart and we know everything that it annoys us sometimes to have to wait around for everyone else to see how right and clever we are.

I don’t want to grow old thinking that I am the smartest asshole in the room.

And so I think a lot about Robert Plant saying that his family never sat around singing the old songs he loves now, that he’s learning so late in life. His own folk songs.

Because I have to think that you can learn to take what you’re given and rearrange it into something you can live with. Something you can be happy with.

At least, that’s what I’m trying for.

Baby Dress Blues

yellow dress

I’m just going to be honest. I had thought it was just that I was unfamiliar with the patterns, but no, now I’ve made three and I can tell you–I really dislike making baby dresses. I don’t hate it, so, you know, I wouldn’t dread doing it if someone really needed a baby dress. but I can’t imagine going out of my way to find opportunities to make them, like I do for blankets. I’m glad I did it but I’m not anxious to do it again.

Though, I’m going to ask if they want me to whoop something up for the baby to be baptized in. That I would do and feel good about.

I don’t know. It’s weird. It’s not that much work–maybe just two or three hours a piece, but it feels like a lot of work for something that’s just going to be used a few times. I mean, really, I don’t want the things I make to just be photo props. Or worn one month and then outgrown. (Though, let me also say that, when you consider that you can get a skein of RedHeart yarn for about $3 a piece and I could have gotten, had I just done solid color dresses, at least three dresses per solid color skein, when you consider how fast babies grow, if you had someone willing to knock out crochet baby clothes for you, this is a really inexpensive way to get baby clothes. $1 an outfit is really, really damn good.)

I like making things that get draped over backs of couches or pulled out every winter or thrown over a sleeping dolly or dump truck even after it’s been outgrown.

I’m glad I got this thing cut off. But this was just not the moment in my life when I needed a forced-couch weekend. A lot is going on–stuff that’s big and scary and probably for the best–but I didn’t need a weekend where I had so much time to think about how out of control so many things about my life are right now.

And things will be fine. Hell, who knows? I might have a different attitude about baby dresses in a month, when I’m feeling more clarity about how my life is going to go.

Sitting Around: Great. Having to Sit Around: Terrible

I am so bored. So very, very bored.

I watched The Frankenstein Theory which was surprisingly good. It didn’t transcend, but it did settle you cozily into a wonderful dark corner. I watched Session 9, which was embarrassingly bad, considering that the acting was so good. Like they were just like “Hey, we’ve got some fine television actors. Fuck a coherent story.” Seriously. If you’ve seen any movie, ever before in your life, you know what happens in this movie. Which is weird, because The Frankenstein Theory also telegraphs its end right from the beginning and yet, with that one, it works. I don’t know. Like I said, The Frankenstein Theory isn’t the best movie ever made but it is what it is so well that I really, really enjoyed it.

I also finished Re-dressing America’s Frontier Past, which was excellent all the way through except for the last part of the 5th chapter, which I’m sure is of interest to theorists but I was so very bored. BUT other than that, wow, this is amazing. As I suspected, it becomes even more apparent that there’s a lot of fertile ground between “crossing” and “passing” and that female impersonators and minstrels are operating on different, but similar dynamics. Like I said, I think it’d be really interesting to hear more about what minstrelsy scholars made of Boag’s book.

The other thing I found really interesting about it is how it puts to lie this notion that we somehow never had same-sex marriage or even a need for it until my lifetime. Tons of the people in Boag’s book marry and, even when it ends up poorly–they’re “discovered” or something–there’s not any sense that the marriage wasn’t valid. It might have been strange or confusing to people how you could marry someone of your same sex and not know it or why you would want to marry someone of your same sex. But there simply was no doubt that these people were married.

If I had to guess, it seems like “crossing” had to become separated enough from the idea that wearing men’s or women’s clothing didn’t make you a man or a woman in some fundamental way and sexual orientation had to become separated enough from gender presentation to allow a space to develop where we as a culture came to believe that gay people couldn’t marry each other.

I read a story about a guy in Australia, I think, who was under house arrest and, eventually, he got so bored that he begged to be thrown in jail for the remainder of his sentence. I thought that was probably apocryphal, but I’m starting to believe it.

A Babier Baby Dress

I took your observations to heart and set about to make a dress a really baby-baby could wear–Big head hole, no fuzzy yarn, and no little holes for fingers to get tangled in. And, obviously, smaller than the purple dress. I bring you the blue dress.

So, it's much less frilly and I went with a half-double crochet rather than a double crochet on the bodice so that it's more solid. The skirt is worked sideways--ten single crochets and ten half double crochets to give it that flair and you attach it to the bodice with a single crochet as you work it. It's tricky to get at first, and then it's really easy and makes a solid attachment. The only thing I think I might do differently next time is to make fewer single crochets every other row so that the flair is a little more pleated.

So, it’s much less frilly and I went with a half-double crochet rather than a double crochet on the bodice so that it’s more solid. The skirt is worked sideways–ten single crochets and ten half double crochets to give it that flair and you attach it to the bodice with a single crochet as you work it. It’s tricky to get at first, and then it’s really easy and makes a solid attachment. The only thing I think I might do differently next time is to make fewer single crochets every other row so that the flair is a little more pleated.

This is the back except for the buttons, which will lie flat on the back. I'm worried about this not being 100% comfortable, but I think only fasteners at the top of the arms could overcome that. Anyway, the opening goes clear down to the skirt to give plenty of room for small-baby manipulation to get it on.

This is the back except for the buttons, which will lie flat on the back. I’m worried about this not being 100% comfortable, but I think only fasteners at the top of the arms could overcome that. Anyway, the opening goes clear down to the skirt to give plenty of room for small-baby manipulation to get it on.

And here's how big it is compared to the other dress.

And here’s how big it is compared to the other dress.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I read it yesterday evening and I think it’s pretty much perfect. It’s a book for adults about being a child. And it’s about forgetfulness and fantasy and I just really love it. It’s really short, too, so it’s a quick read.

This yarn is pretty damn stiff until you wash it.

This yarn is pretty damn stiff until you wash it.

Consider, for example, this troublesome fact, reported in 2010 by the biostatistician David B Allison and his co-authors at the University of Alabama in Birmingham: over the past 20 years or more, as the American people were getting fatter, so were America’s marmosets. As were laboratory macaques, chimpanzees, vervet monkeys and mice, as well as domestic dogs, domestic cats, and domestic and feral rats from both rural and urban areas. In fact, the researchers examined records on those eight species and found that average weight for every one had increased. The marmosets gained an average of nine per cent per decade. Lab mice gained about 11 per cent per decade. Chimps, for some reason, are doing especially badly: their average body weight had risen 35 per cent per decade. Allison, who had been hearing about an unexplained rise in the average weight of lab animals, was nonetheless surprised by the consistency across so many species. ‘Virtually in every population of animals we looked at, that met our criteria, there was the same upward trend,’ he told me.

It isn’t hard to imagine that people who are eating more themselves are giving more to their spoiled pets, or leaving sweeter, fattier garbage for street cats and rodents. But such results don’t explain why the weight gain is also occurring in species that human beings don’t pamper, such as animals in labs, whose diets are strictly controlled. In fact, lab animals’ lives are so precisely watched and measured that the researchers can rule out accidental human influence: records show those creatures gained weight over decades without any significant change in their diet or activities.–“The Obesity Era” by David Berreby

The Dress and Some Questions

Here’s the dress:

dress 1

In what world is that for a newborn to three month old? Am I wrong? I feel like this is huge! Cute, but huge. Okay, but here are my questions for you parents. Check out the back and imagine dressing a baby in this. Should I sew up the purple part? This would mean that you’d have to put the dress over the baby’s head. Does that seem doable? Or should I put buttons up the whole back? Okay, now let’s talk about being a baby. Am I wrong to think that most buttons are going to be uncomfortable for someone who lies on her back all day. Any recommendations for what kinds of buttons are best for babies?

dress 2

Why I Love My Gyno

So, you know, when they shoot you full of drugs, even mildly, and then cut you open, even a little bit, they like to keep you talking so they can tell if you’re about to pass out or vomit or die or something.

So, I told her about how I had told her how I’d come to think of it as my witch’s tit, where Satan came to suckle.

And, I am not even shitting you, she said, “Well, obviously.”

Anyway, I’m feeling a little tired, but I can’t yet feel the stitches. So, I may regret not taking some kind of painkiller right when I got home, but so far so good, I don’t think I need it.

I’m supposed to not freak out if if bleeds or leaks today. So, I’m sitting on the couch on a towel. But that’s that.

And you were so worried.*



*Bonus points if you knew I was quoting Grover.


1. There’s something about joking about the possibility of needing a taint transplant that makes it easier to face the scalpel today.

2. Whoa, the fourth season of Buffy drags until “Hush” doesn’t it? It’s funny because we were joking that we weren’t sure we’d be able to stick it out if people didn’t stop sitting around talking about their feelings. And then comes “Hush.” It is a fantastic episode on its own, but in the context of Season 4, viewing Season 4 in big chunks, it’s also a much, much needed corrective to a season that, until then, really hadn’t found its way.

3. Crocheting this baby dress is motherfucking hard. I thought I had a pretty easy pattern, but I pulled the top out three times last night to redo it. I think I now have the right number of stitches to start this shell nonsense, again, but this time with the right number of base shells. And this is not to mention that there’s no way this dress is for a newborn. Granted, this is my practice run and I’m practice-running it on an I hook when it calls for an H, but let’s be real. An H isn’t so much smaller than an I that it’s going to take the dress from “I can walk and wear this dress my aunt made me” to “I can’t even get all my fingers to point the same direction at the same time, but look at this snazzy dress.”

Still, I’m hoping that doing it will give me a basic sense of baby dress construction and I can just whoop something smaller up, next.

Notes on the Notes

Honestly, sometimes I feel like the “Notes from the 422nd Annual Wraiths for Writing Conference” is just for me. Ghosts, odd, never-ending academic conferences, the way the entries are sweet and creepy at the same time. And that line–“Sometimes a person’s voice after death is like a mirror after it’s been shattered.”–it just breaks me in two. I feel proud that such a sentence could exist and jealous that I didn’t write it.

So, aside from my goal of someday writing something that makes people feel how they feel when they listen to Karen Dalton’s version of “Katie Cruel,” I now want to write something that creeps me out as much as “Sometimes a person’s voice after death is like a mirror after it’s been shattered.” It’s so wonderful.