The Witches Start Tomorrow

My stories are scheduled to pop up at 6 p.m. If there is a guest witch, that’s set to appear at 6:15. Some of mine are not that great. The detective one, especially, doesn’t work. But I learned a lot from writing it–like how hard it must be to write very short mysteries.

Plus, eh, you know, I think it’s okay to publicly suck sometimes. The cool thing with doing something like trying to come up with thirty stories in, basically, three months is that it lets you see how sometimes the crap that comes out is crap and sometimes it’s good and it’s hard to know which you’re going to get when. And I was terrified at the start because none of the first ones were really grabbing me. Not in a way that made me think “This is going to stick with people.” And I really thought it would be downhill from there. But I think a lot of the better stories are later, when I was sure there was nothing left.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to it. So, let’s all meet back here at this time tomorrow and we’ll get started.


I get weirded out a little by having a bunch of posts all scheduled. Like I could die and stuff would still come.

It gives me the heebie jeebies.

On the other hand, if I knew I was dying–like if the doctor was like “You have three days to live,” but I felt okay–I would schedule a post for like in a year that just said, “Boo!”

Nope, It Has to Be Red

I have been spending some quality time with the black and white blanket and the seams have to be red. It needs a kind of vibrant shocking counterpoint to all the sameness. And don’t get me wrong. I love the sameness. I want you to see the very subtle ways the grays, especially, are different. But you’re going to need something to carry your eye along, to break up the sameness over such a large area. The small blue blanket I made for Dr. J. worked, in part, because it was small. It could be all blues because your eye had what was beyond the edges. With something as large as an adult afghan, you need something on the field, so to speak, to break things up.

That’s got to be the red yard tying it together.

Things are in the Pipeline

Just your weekly reminder that, if you want to participate in the witch festivities, you have until the end of October. I’m happy to take anything–pictures, fun facts, astute observations, charming stories.

I’ve already had a couple come in and they are fantastic.

Woooooooo Awoooooo

I’m getting really excited about October.

Let’s recap the exciting things.

Witches all month long, including some guest witches.

“Beyond, Behind, Below” comes out on the 1st (I think the 1st).

I read to some 4th graders a ghost story about farts on the 4th.

I read to folks in East Nashville at some cool community thingy on the 6th.

Southern Festival of Books is the 11th-13th. I plan on spending my day in the booth (Friday, if you’re around), crocheting the dark color squares in my afghan, because I am old and cannot see to do them in my evenings in the living room.

I read at Mad Donna’s at 7 p.m. on October 15th. Please, please, please come.

I’m having coffee with one of the Project X artists at some point.

I’m spending some time with my dead folks. Don’t know which nine days, but some.

Then it’s the Butcher’s birthday on the 30th, then Halloween!

Because It’s a Weird, Good Day

A cop just came by and told me Heard Library is haunted and that he hates going in there and that, whenever there’s an alarm call in the middle of the night, he’s praying that it is someone, because knowing that it probably isn’t is the worst.

And he said that he’s been in there playing “Chase the unseen thing that keeps setting off the alarms.”

And my god, what if this just becomes a habit, where guys tell me ghost stories out of the blue? First at that party and now just sitting here at my desk.

Consider the Black, Gray, and White Afghan

jess 2

It just occurred to me that “What’s black and white and re(a)d ll over?” doesn’t really make sense as a joke anymore. So, that’s kind of depressing.

Anyway, here’s my favorite thing about this afghan, even as I am not very far into it. If you look to the right of the pile, you’ll see two medium grays–one big and one small. In this picture, as in real life, I can’t immediately see that those are different colors. If I stare at it long enough, I can finally tell that the smaller gray has more green in it. To the Butcher, those grays look very different and he has no problem distinguishing between them.

But to me, the three whites look very different. The one on the left being the most “off-white,” with a real tannish tinge that makes me a little nervous about using it in the blanket, for fear it won’t look right, the one in the middle being a softer, off-white, and the one on the right being a crisp pure white. The Butcher thinks they all look almost the same and cannot, at all, see a difference between the middle one and the one on the right.

I cannot tell you how much I love the idea of making an afghan and knowing that, whatever blanket I’m seeing is probably different than the blanket you’re going to see. I mean, I know it’s a common stoner question–“What if the color I see as green is not the color you see as green, man?” But in this case, it’s pretty easy to prove that different people are going to see different things when they look at it.

I’m curious, though I don’t have the black lined up next to it, if people will have similar issues differentiating between the black and the charcoal gray tucked in there on the end.

This is the blanket for my co-worker's daughter. Two purples, two blues, a gold, and a field of white.

This is the blanket for my co-worker’s daughter. Two purples, two blues, a gold, and a field of white.

Here's the start of the monochromatic blanket.

Here’s the start of the monochromatic blanket.

Here are all the grays and whites. The red will tie everything together.

Here are all the grays and whites. The red will tie everything together.

Success isn’t just a matter of talent. It’s a combination of desire, arrogance and a sense of “What the hell else am I supposed to do?” Every pro writer knows a better writer who started out at the same time but you’ve never heard of them. Why? Because they gave up when things got hard. And you know what? Fuck ‘em. They didn’t have the guts to stick it out. If you want to be professional writer get yourself a truckful of guts but a shot glass of ego and maybe you’ll make it.–Richard Kadrey

Things, Because I Got Busy on Facebook

1. Sure, let’s elect a plagiarist. Why not? Lamar, it’s time to stop appeasing these jackasses and just eat their lunch.

2. “Better to stay indoors until one can safely discern between the dog and the wolf.” I just want to marry this sentence. Or die of envy that someone else wrote it.

3. Gail Kerr’s right–something is starting to stink here.

4. Over on Facebook, Coble was talking about this. It’s supposed to be Native American-inspired or something. Here’s my problem–aside from the fact that it’s 3/4s of a million dollars–is this supposed to be inspired by Native Americans who lived here? Because I’ve now Googled the art and clothing of every tribe that was thought to have been in the Tennessee area and one thing stands out–they all had access to and made ample use of a vibrant red dye. I couldn’t identify it, but obviously it’s something pretty prevalent here, because it was very popular. So, where’s the red on this thing? Is this a tribute to Native Tennesseans or just some abstract concept of Native Americans?

The Difference Between the Side for Shaking and the Side for Spooning is Substantial

Here’s how I remember my first (or maybe second) Thai meal. One time I ate Thai with Coble and Sarcastro and another time I ate it with JR and Elias. I just can’t remember which order.

Anyway, I was in Colorado for work. But I was hanging out with JR and Elias in my spare time. We went to this little Thai restaurant and Elias ordered everything hot. I remember the waitress trying to dissuade us. I remember it being delicious. And then I remember my eyes watering and snot involuntarily running down my face and my skin melting off the back of my head and all my whole upper body just disintegrating into a beacon of fire. Viggo Mortensen saw me from a distance and was like “Crap, are they filming another Lord of the Rings without me?” Hunter S. Thompson came by our table. He was riding a cheetah named Betty Grable. The ghost of Jerry Garcia was wearing a tutu and singing “Sugar Magnolia” while my arms turned to jelly. The cooks from the back room came out to laugh at us. I started speaking in tongues. In the language of angels, I predicted the world would turn into a giant bread pudding. How many lifetimes did we sit at that table? How did we get home? Did we really dance down the aisle at someone else’s wedding set-up at the Stanley Hotel or was that part of dinner?

I have no answers.

But I was reminded of that experience a little bit last night, because I made stir-fry for dinner. I marinated the skirt steak in Coke, as is my new favorite trick, and I meant to add a few shakes of red pepper. But my stupid hand shook two or three times before my stupid brain realized that the flap on the red pepper flakes I had open was not the one with three holes for shaking on your pizza but the one with one, big gaping maw, which no one ever needs, ever.

It wasn’t as hot as hallucinatory Thai, by any stretch. But it was hot enough to make my teeth feel strange in my mouth.

And delicious.


My Secret Love

There’s a guy who drives by TSU every day about the same time I drive by TSU who has this beautiful Jaguar, one of the older X series. It’s white, so I always, at first, think it’s a cop car, but then it comes up behind me with its round headlights that give shape to the whole front of the car and the little jaguar hood ornament and I am always hit with this wave of covetousness. I don’t even know if I could afford the insurance on a car like that, let alone to ever own one. But my god, maybe I could just wash it.

It does make me wonder, when I see the newer models, why they’re so butt ugly and ordinary looking.

If I ever drive a Jaguar, I want the whole world to know it. I want it to be all round edges and luxury and Alfred driving me back to Wayne Manor.

I kind of like the new XKs, but there’s no hood ornament. Do they not know how important that is for my envying?

Just Freaking Out the Crows

This morning, on our walk, Mrs. Wigglebottom insisted on walking on my right side. What the fuck. It’s been 14 years. I guess we can switch it up. I couldn’t tell any difference, but she walked more quickly, which makes me wonder if she sees better out of her right eye than her left and would prefer it to be on the outside, so to speak.

Anyway, one of the crows was doing its thing in the trees above us. Caw caw caw. Wait a few seconds. Caw caw caw. Now, because I spend a lot of time listening to crows for someone who is not a crow, I know that the response to this is not caw caw caw in return. But I can’t remember what it is, because I am not a crow.

Also, because I had unsettling dreams about my grandma’s bedroom all night. I dreamed, in one, that I’d taken a Russian lover, who was my co-worker in some office job we had in my grandma’s living room. He wooed me by showing me that my computer tower was also a printer. And then I asked him, “Do you want to fuck?” and we went into my grandma’s bedroom and, well, obviously. Russian guys in my dreams always look like the phone oligarch with the tiny giraffe. But the important part is that, in my dream, even though I said I didn’t want a relationship with him, I still called him up and told him everything I was thinking, even though he claimed to not know enough English to understand me. And I would spend this time on the phone with him trying to make sure that the doors to my grandma’s bedroom were locked, even though all her old bras were draped over the handles, making it impossible to even tell if the doors were tightly shut.

The unsettling part of the dream, of all of the dreams I have about my grandma’s house, is that all my grandma’s stuff is still in it. In the dream, I’m never quite sure she’s really dead. At any moment, it seems like she could arrive home and want to know why I’m fucking Russian oligarchs in her bed.

I really have her bed. In real life. The bed I used to sleep next to her in when we’d visit her. That’s my bed now. Obviously, a different mattress, but that frame is the frame that held her and I.

Which leads me to the other unsettling thing for me about the dream. I’m pretty sure the Russian oligarch is mine. And the computer. But I sometimes wonder if I’m dreaming about her house so much because she did. I don’t know if it’s just that some of her dreams linger on, attached to the bed, and get in my head for the dreaming or if she, in need of a live brain to dream about her old house, is dreaming through me. It’s unsettling. And it makes me miss her. And it’s a little embarrassing. Hope you like naked Russian oligarchs fucking your granddaughters, grandma.

When she first started having her strokes, she told us all how we had to watch out for Catholic boys because they knew how much Protestant girls liked to have sex and the Pope had told them how they could lead a girl right up to the point where she would have to have sex or die and then he’d jump out of the car and refuse to have sex with you unless you converted to Catholicism. So, watch out for those Catholic boys.

I love this story, even though it’s full of anti-Catholic nonsense, because it is anti-Catholic nonsense almost completely opposite from the anti-Catholic stereotypes I heard as a young woman.

But anyway, she never told me about Russian Orthodox boys. So, who knows?

I still slept poorly.

So, I looked around and there was no one outside at the AT&T building and so I called back caw caw caw. And there was dead silence from the crow. Nothing. And then a tentative caw caw caw. So, I caw caw caw-ed back and again, silence.

But I’m going to try again. Because I’m taking the silence to mean that the crow knew I was talking to it. Maybe not what the hell I was saying, but that I was trying to say something to it.

The United States of Paranoia

This weekend I read Jesse Walker’s The United States of Paranoia. And it contains a brief discussion of The Mystic Clan! Which is not the only reason to read it, but it’s a good one. Anyway, I feel like, if you were just going to read two books on where we are as a nation at this moment, you could do no better than this and Balko’s book. Somewhere, in the space between them, there’s just a lot of good truth about where we are and why.

Walker does some things very nicely. I think he does a great job of showing how paranoia is built into the fabric of our country, that it’s been there pretty much from the moment the English met the Indians and worried they were conspiring with the French or other Indians to do them in. And he’s appropriately sympathetic to the truth in that old bumper sticker that just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you. (Pause for an appreciation of Nirvana’s ability to turn a bumper sticker into a song lyric). There are actually conspiracies, just not always the ones we think.

I also liked that he got into how we talk about belief in conspiracies as if it’s just the provenance of wacko lefties or nutty right-wingers, but they’re actually interwoven throughout races, classes, genders, and political beliefs.

He organizes types of conspiracies we believe in into four main ones–the enemy outside (The Indians are plotting against us!), the enemy inside (Your wife is secretly a witch!), the enemy below (the slaves are plotting against us!), and the enemy above (a secret society headed by Andy Jackson really rules the country and they’re the ones agitating the Indians, witches, and slaves against you!)–and then talks about how these motifs reoccur and morph into each other.

One of the most interesting things he talks about is how our brains are so determined to find these kinds of patterns that you can end up with a situation where, say, 10 college history professors get together and decide to play a game where they will “prove” using historical documents that every U.S. president is or has been a vampire, and they can find “evidence” of this secret vampire cabal pretty easily and even, weirdly enough, considering they know they made it up, find themselves forgetting that this isn’t true.

In other words, if you put a compelling enough narrative order to random facts, your brain will begin to accept the truth of that narrative order even if it’s just arbitrary and made up. And he talks a little about the trap where even the absence of evidence can be evidence. So, if you couldn’t find anything that suggested that FDR was a vampire, it wouldn’t necessarily prove that he wasn’t. He could, after all, just be the best at keeping it secret.

It’s interesting to think how this thing that is normally a force for good in our lives–learning to recognize patterns and developing understanding from those patterns–can easily also work against a person.

But it’s also kind of the driving force behind Project X–Sam Houston was really a werewolf! Adelicia Acklen collected weird canines! That cute girl at the brothel was really the Devil! So, I’m convinced it’s a good book for writers to read, just for understanding on how to build plots that contain sinister plots.

This Afternoon

I was up all night because the dog barfed in my bed. I consider this to be both her fault and mine. Though, looking back, I’m not sure what I could have done differently. The thing was that I don’t have another mattress pad so I couldn’t make the bed until the mattress pad was dry. That took forever. And I’d just washed the sheets! Ugh.

Anyway, just as I was getting in bed, I was overcome by sneezing fits.

And lo and behold, I’ve felt like shit all day today.

I went out to nap in the hammock for a while and something woke me up. In my head was the phrase “strange spirits walk the land.”

Like that’s what I’d been dreaming, I guess, though I don’t remember dreaming.

It creeped me out, though, and I had to come inside.

Anonymous Fame

I went to get my hair trimmed yesterday in preparation for having to be out in public in October. I told the beautician my name and then, after that, he talked non-stop about Pith. But he never asked me if I was that Betsy Phillips.

So, I couldn’t decide if he was trying to hint around and get me to say if I was that Betsy Phillips or not.

Christine Kittrell Deserves to be Remembered by All of Nashville

The musicians walk of fame has seven black people on it, not counting the Fisk Jubilee Singers.

Kid Rock is on it. Christine Kittrell is not. And, yes, I get that you have to pay for the star and be willing to show up for the awarding of the star. And Kittrell can’t do that because she’s dead. But it means that our history appears whitewashed. As if all Nashville produced in the 50s/60s was Bobby Hebb, Little Richard, and Jimi Hendrix.


So, for my friend with the busted leg, I decided to do an afghan she can mope around in. I’m going to do all black, grays, and whites and do the sideways granny squares I’ve been doing, but blown up to adult size. I don’t yet have any idea how many squares I’m talking. I’m assuming at least a hundred. I guess we’re about to find out. But I’m going to do the stitching in this cherry red and border it in that, too. I cannot wait. I’m starting some squares tonight, just to get a feel for how wide I want it to be.

Then,, for my co-worker’s daughter, she’s requested blues and purples. I think I’ve found an awesome pattern I want to try for that. So, it’ll be white and two shades of blue and two shades of purple and a gold to go with both of them.

I’m also going to be taking the East Side Storytelling slot at the Root Wise Reunion. That’s at 2 p.m. on the 6th. And then remember, Mad Donna’s on the 15th at 7 p.m. Hurray, you’ll be tired of me by the end of next month! But as heavy as the beginning of the month is shaping up to be, I think that means I’ll be sitting out at the end of the month. That’s fine. The closer to Halloween, probably the better. I like to end on the 29th when I can. So, that’s what I’m aiming for.

The TNDP’s Woman Problem

I admit, I’d pretty much given up on writing about the TNDP’s inability to find and support female candidates because, you know, when the house is on fire you don’t really worry about the plumbing being shitty.

But then this happened. Listen, when two-thirds of the people who suddenly depart a place are young women and the boss is an older man and enough people are concerned that they’re like “Let’s do some exit interviews and make sure everything is on the up and up,” there needs to be a woman on the committee doing the exit interviews. Fine, Mary Patterson isn’t the right person for it, maybe. But there needs to be a woman present.

The fact that Roy Herron can’t see how important that is proves that the house being on fire is inseparable from the shitty plumbing. Perhaps a fire in the fireplace got out of control and no one could draw enough water to put it out before it caught the whole house. I don’t know.

But they are interrelated. The TNDP is a shithole that will not get its act together and will perpetually disappoint Tennessee Democrats because it’s still about protecting the few bases of power that are left, not about expanding opportunities for everyone. The sexism is not separate from that.


The Butcher and I went to Gabby’s for lunch. They were getting their application for Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives together. I said to the Butcher, “You know we’re going to have to take Mom & Dad here if they get on TV.”

“They’ll make us take them here if they just hear they’re trying to get on TV,” the Butcher said. “So, I hope it’s good.”

It was good! And, even though they tell you to clean up after yourself, they cleaned up after us.

I like hanging out with the Butcher. On our way home, we were talking about how, if you’re going to be a place with a line, you have to keep that line moving fast or we’d rather be at a place with a waitstaff. And I floated by the Butcher my theory that Nashville’s willingness to stand in lines is a public ritual grieving the death of Opryland–like you may take our beloved themepark from us, but you can’t stop us from recreating the queues from that themepark all over town in memorium.

The Butcher thinks it’s more that people in Nashville like to be seen and how can you be seen if you’re not standing around outside?

And then we lamented the loss of the IHOP that sat at Broadway and 21st where we used to eat lunch together when we first moved to town, which was the friendliest and sunniest and just, in general, best IHOP ever.