Thanksgiving–Now Is the Time When We Process Our Feelings

Here are the ways my parents drive me nuts–1. they stayed with us the first night they were in town. This was unacceptable because the Butcher’s bed is so uncomfortable. They bought the Butcher’s bed. So, if they intended on sleeping in the Butcher’s bed when they visited, why did they buy a bed they didn’t like to sleep in?! 2. Though they promised to cover the cost of Sadie’s euthanasia and though I called them and told them what it cost and I left the bill on the table and I reminded them again, they basically froze and refused to respond to me. Once I realized they had no intention of paying it, I let it drop, because what the fuck? I can’t hang out with them and be bitter about money I don’t even really need. On our way home, my sister-in-law called and asked them for $60. We had to find a Walmart immediately so that they could send her $100. Tied to both of these things, at one point, my dad asked me “Why haven’t you done such and such?” and I was like, “Because I had to pay the vet and put new tires on my car, Dad. I’m out of money for the month.”

And here’s the thing. I don’t want their money. I don’t need their money. I want them to listen to me and sympathize with me. I didn’t need them to offer to pay for Sadie. I needed them to be sad with me. But, by god, when they flat out said, “Tell us how much it is once you know and we’ll send you the money,” and I say “I don’t need you to do that” and they say “Just tell us how much it is,” then fucking do it. Or, fine, don’t do it. But then don’t fucking send money to my sister-in-law so she can buy a Playstation. In front of me.

And then, I wanted to be all, “Oh, just fuck you, you fucking fuckers,” but we told my brother we were coming down Wednesday. We saw him Wednesday night. At which point he announced that his girlfriend was going to her family’s for Thanksgiving at lunch (which, again, fine. They want to see the baby.) so he and my nephew are just going to hang around their house until she gets home. They’ll see us for dinner. Well then, why the fuck did we drive down on Wednesday?

And, I have to tell you, as pissed as I was at my parents, seeing them try to find a way to fill Thanksgiving day–when there’s nothing open and they’re not really familiar with my brother’s new town–while they wait around for my brother to decide he now can be bothered to see them? It tore my heart right out. Is this what it’s always like when they go down there? Them just waiting around for my brother to decide to spend some time with them?

Oh, but that is not the weirdest thing. My niece does not have the name her mom told me she was going to have. No, my brother vetoed the middle name her mom wanted to give her–the same name women in her family have had for three generations–and gave her a different middle name instead.

Anyway, my niece is adorable. Her mom is lovely. And she didn’t punch anybody, even though we were all shouting out suggestions about what she could do to appease the baby when she was fussy. And it was good to see my nephew. He’s hilariously awesome. And, for the most part, we did have a really nice time. We ended up eating at an Asian buffet for Thanksgiving dinner and then piling in my parents’ hotel room to watch football.

The Butcher and I are, based on this knowledge, going to make some adjustments at Christmas so that we’re not hostages to the bullshit between my parents and our brother.

And I think it will be okay.

Ooo, Ooo, Ooo

The other day, the Butcher and I were talking about the new Billie Joe Armstrong/Norah Jones Everly Brothers tribute album. He and I were both pretty sure that it would rise or fall as a good album on the basis of whether Armstrong could not suck as a straight-up singer and how their voices would fit. I felt slightly optimistic. The Butcher felt slightly pessimistic.

I think I’m right.


Another Lunch Alone at Noshville

I have to admit, having lunch by myself at Noshville is kind of becoming my new favorite thing. Today I sat by a couple of people from Will Hoge’s team (management, I think) and they were trying to coordinate things for a tour and it was really fascinating. Do you pay people their per diems up front or weekly or what? How can we make sure the band gets to see redwood trees? What’s the best way to make sure things go smoothly between the artist and the venue? If we need to be in city x on this date, how early do we have to leave the previous city? Who needs to be where when? Do we have a driver we like for this stretch? And on and on. I have rarely ever been involved in a meeting that was as productive as these two guys were just whooping out over lunch

I didn’t hear any good Will Hoge gossip, but listening to them hashing out all these details was really interesting.


I did nothing all weekend. It was glorious. Yesterday, I didn’t even leave the house. This morning, on my walk, I thought about how nice it would be if every day were like yesterday, but then I thought about it and it would suck. To not get any real writing done? To not be alone? To have nothing to do? Ugh. No thanks.

But it was nice for one day and kind of got me mentally prepared for the chaos of the coming week.

At least, I hope it does.

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

1. Ghost hunters in Louisiana burned down a plantation they’d broken into. So, that’s not good.

2. The other weekend, I was showing S. around some of my favorite cemeteries in town. We went by Greenwood and I pointed out the number of graves covered in white stones. And I remembered that Bridgett, I think, had told me why this is, but I’d forgotten. but then I found it again:

In addition to personal objects, some African-American graves in the South are decorated with white seashells and pebbles, suggesting the watering environment at the bottom of either the ocean or a lake or river.

Such material items are not associated with the Christian belief of salvation; they are more likely signs of the remembrance of African custom. In South Carolina, nearly 40 percent of all slaves imported between 1733 and 1807 were from the Kongo-speaking region; their world of the dead is known to be underground but under water. This place is the realm of the bakulu, creatures whose white color marks them as deceased. Shells and stones signal the boundary of this realm, which can only be reached by penetrating beneath the two physical barriers. Their whiteness remembers that in Central Africa white, not black, is the color of death.

More on the Kids’ Book

So, as you know, I know nothing about writing a kids’ book. And I thought, well, I could fret or I could bring it to the artist who has done children’s books before and she could give me revising advice.

And, knowing how much I love to sit around and fret, you’ll be surprised to learn that I huevos-ed up and gave her the draft!

Now, it was a draft in better shape than the one I was fretting over yesterday. Everyone has names, at least. But it’s still a lot rougher than I would normally show to people.

But she’s going to read it and she’s going to think about how she wants to split it up and lay it out and what things she wants to illustrate. And she says that figuring out what images we want and how we want things to fall on the page will give shape to the kinds of revisions I need to do. So, we’ll just go back and forth with it and see what comes of it.

In other words, I didn’t have to have a perfect, polished draft to show her. Because it will change shape as we think about art.

I am so thrilled and kind of overwhelmed. I still can’t even believe that she suggested we do this and I’m kind of… well… the part of me that is most prominently me is still sitting there being all “Oh, no, I don’t know if I can do this.” And so I am surprised at the part of me who’s like “Here’s my rough draft. Take a look at it.” I’m surprised that part of me shut the fretter up for a while.

This is the biggest change that has happened to me, in many ways, in my life and it’s one I can’t explain. I don’t know how I went from a person who wanted to write fiction to a person who writes fiction. I know, in part, it’s because of you guys. And I am so very grateful to you for that. But I’ve always had awesome, supportive friends. And I just used to be a person who wanted to write fiction.

I don’t know, for sure, what made me switch. But here we are.

It kind of blows my mind, still, though.

Some Thoughts on the Children’s Story

It’s so fucking hard! I have a rough draft done. And by rough, I mean, my main character doesn’t have a name until halfway through and the ghost doesn’t yet have a name at all.

And I’m not sure if having the ghost be a result of child abuse is too much for kids. But then I think, well, in any audience, someone is going through that.

Still finding the right tone is hard.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really, really enjoying it. But every time I sit down and look at the words, I’m reminded that I’m trying something I just have no fucking idea about.

The Friday the 13th Book Club

Just a reminder, if you want to do the book club, the deal is that you go to East Side Story, buy a copy of A City of Ghost and tell Chuck you’re coming to the book club. It’s at 6 p.m. on Friday, December 13th.

Right now, there are apparently only a handful of people signed up. And I am a little nervous that a discussion with so few people is only going to take fifteen minutes.

So, if you’re on the fence, please consider dropping into the field near me.

Bellies Bared to the Sun

I love this so much. I love seeing women with their big fat bellies just out there, them completely unselfconscious about it.

A while back, when I was at M.’s, I was joking about how old women cannot resist squeezing me. And the truth is that I understand. I mean, kind of. I’ve always had this body, or some variation of it, and I can touch it whenever I want, so it’s not that big a deal to me. But even back in my more frequent skinny-dipping days, when I stood naked in the moonlight at the edge of the pool or pond, other women would say “You’re so round” to me with awe.

I can’t say that I really know what they were thinking. I just know that they saw something when they saw my body that unexpectedly pleased them. And I still find it funny and strange, but not surprising, when women cuddle up next to me or put their arms around me or rest their hands gently on my hips.

I don’t know. Maybe guys feel the same way, but there’s no cultural license for dudes to snuggle up on women. And probably that’s for the best.

But when I see these sleeping Lithuanians, I both am grateful to see them and grateful there aren’t any comments, so I can just live in a world where this is extraordinary and wonderful.

You’re So Cute, Amos Lee

Regarding this song, Amos Lee told Rolling Stone, ‘The Man Who Wants You’ was written more as a straight-on country kinda tune, but I wanted to stretch it out of that scene a bit, so I played everyone ‘Snatching It Back’ by Clarence Carter and it fell into place easily. I always saw that tune as more of a country R&B flavor.’

And I’m glad to see the acknowledgement of the song’s debt to Carter.

But I think he’s left out the song’s obvious grandfather.

It’s cool, Amos Lee. It’s cool. We know.

One of the Ways I’m a Terrible Person

When I was a kid, an adult did something shitty to me. Not like life-shattering betrayal of trust shitty, but just ordinary shitty. The kind of ordinary shitty, though, that kind of ruins a little bit of being a kid for you. Like “Oh, this person is just pretending to be nice and pretending to be friends with these other adults, but really, she’s a liar who is deliberately doing things to undermine the people who think she’s their friend.” Until her, I didn’t really understand that grown-ups would lie. I thought they might not always tell the truth, but it was just because they didn’t know what the truth was, not because they had some agenda that was furthered by just trying to fuck things up for people.

Anyway, something terrible has happened to her community. She is fine. But I saw her on the news, hugely upset, going on about how she and the members of her church were staying late to help the victims of this terrible thing, because they’re Christian and that’s what they do.

And I felt this kind of rage burn through me so quickly and then burn out and then I laughed. And I realized I was laughing because she was so upset and scared and miserable.

I would like to be a more forgiving person. Not for the sake of the people who have wronged me. But just for my own sake. But I hadn’t thought about this woman in a million years. Isn’t that the benefit to moving away? Folks go on with their lives. You go on with yours. And you don’t have to give a shit about each other anymore. If you’d have asked me yesterday morning about her, I think I would have had to struggle to bring her to mind. My first memory of her would not have even been the shitty thing, but the really awesome thing she’s well-known for in the community (which I’m not mentioning, because it would, I think, make her immediately recognizable).

I didn’t know, in other words, how pissed and hurt I was still by her. Yesterday morning, if you had asked me if I had forgiven her. I would have laughed and said yes, of course. That was so many years ago. And I would have believed it.

But seeing her face. It just opened up some part of me I didn’t even know was walled off. And there I was “Ha ha, this time it sucks to be you.” And it felt good to see her crying.

So, here is my question. If you design an interior space in your psyche that lets you navigate life with as little continuing trauma as possible, if you just wall off the unpleasant shit you have no way of resolving and learn to maneuver around the spot you just don’t use any more so deftly you even forget it’s there, and you base your ideas of yourself on the interior that no longer includes those walled-off spots, how can you truly know you’ve moved beyond something? That you’ve truly forgiven someone? If the wall is there, just waiting to crumble, how can you ever, really, move beyond old hurts?

The Curious Case of the Butt Pat in the Night

Now that I’ve got all of Memphis pissed at me (for those of you keeping track, that’s fans of Gail Kerr, mid-century modern architecture enthusiasts, Methodists, and now Memphis folks), it brings to mind my favorite story.

A million years ago, my friend B., was in college in Memphis and I went to visit her. She lived in a big old mansion in a really run-down part of town. It was her and like ten or fifteen other art students and theater majors.  She was the only one I knew, though.

So, we went to bed and I fell asleep and after a while, there was a tapping on my butt. I looked over at B. but she was fast asleep. Clearly not her. So, I made the reasonable assumption anyone in my situation would make. This must be the time of night everyone who wants to switches partners. And here I was, being called on to be a gracious guest to someone else in the house. I pretended to be asleep and not notice. The tapping on my butt continued.

And I got to mulling it over. I mean, fuck it, right? I’m in Memphis, with a bunch of arsty-fartsy interesting people. So, okay, I guess let’s do this.

I sit up.

It’s her damn cat. There is no exciting debauchery the likes of which would scandalize my parents. It’s just the cat for whatever cat reasons tapping on my butt.

Thanksgiving and Stuff

Our Thanksgiving situation has been resolved with far less trauma than I imagined would be involved. And I’m going to get to meet my niece!

I think the main thing I miss about having a dog is that I feel like my soul is smaller, like it has retreated back into the shell of my body. The thing about a dog is that it is just constantly producing wonder. You wonder if it needs to go outside. You wonder where it will be in the house when you get home. You wonder if it would enjoy going to the park or going for a car ride.

I just don’t wonder about the cats in the same way. And the cats never look at me with the same sense of “Oh, wow, it’s you!” Don’t get me wrong. The orange cat especially is trying to fill in–making sure the Butcher has someone to nap with and that I have someone to at least do some of my walk with. But he can’t fake sincerity and there’s always a bit of slyness in a cat, a bit of aloofness that lets you know his whole heart is not with you.

And I just miss having someone around the house who is all in. I miss there being someone I can be all in with, too.

Many More Things

On Saturday, S. and I went to the vegan cafe over in East Nashville and I got this sandwich which seemed to be attempting to single-handedly overturn any stereotypes one might have about vegan food being light-weight and not very filling. I could only eat half of it. It was literally the heartiest thing I’ve every eaten. The half I didn’t eat? It became a lumberjack in a sustainable forest in Oregon. I got a postcard from it today. It’s growing a beard so that it fits in with all the other lumberjacks. Even though it’s only half-a-sandwich high, it still has been above quota every day since it started work. It has a girlfriend now–an apple who grew on an old heirloom tree who works at a hairdresser in town, putting women’s hair in elaborate updos for special occasions. On weekends, they rock climb and make their own butter.

Which is weird, when you think about it, since he’s a vegan sandwich, but I guess a sandwich made by vegans might, himself, be only a vegetarian.

I’m just saying–this sandwich was the most ambitious sandwich I’ve ever eaten.

Then that evening the Butcher had a fire and introduced K. and C. to the joys of s’mores made with Kit-Kats.

On Sunday, we went to see Into the Woods, which was amazing. The wolf had this elaborate feather mask and it was just so great and awesome.

And I made curried chicken for dinner last night.

Which means that, when I went for my walk this morning, I smelled like curry and my coat smelled like fire. I smelled like heaven. Anyone who smelled me would have immediately fallen in love with me. So, it’s a good thing, I guess, that I didn’t run into anyone.

Many Things

–I forgot to say that the afghan for the co-worker is done. I just need to run it through the wash and take some pictures of it. The end tucking was hilariously terrible, but I think I’m making my piece with it just being a chore that must be done.

–My oldest nephew is, as of Sunday, living with my brother. I have feelings. One big feeling I have is that I kind of hope he does go into the military. It scares the shit out of me so much. I can’t even begin to tell you. But I wonder what it would be like for him to be in a place where, when a person with authority over you told you he was going to be someplace at, say, 6 a.m., so you’d better be there, that, when you got there at 6 a.m., he was there. My nephew is awesome and dependable. He doesn’t need the self-discipline the military imposes. But I imagine he’d flourish in a situation where knowing that everyone around him was doing what they said they were going to do or there were clear consequences would be very good for him. From the outside, it looks like every problem my nephew has goes back to trying to count on people who can’t be counted on and then acting out because he’s frustrated.

–I wrote this thing for Pith. I feel kind of like a chump sometimes for picking on Gail Kerr, but sometimes she says stuff and I’m just like, “Oh my god, is this what women here think feminism is?” and I just… ugh.

If you need to live in New York in order to get published the traditional way, then New York publishers can’t bemoan the rise of self-publishing. Not everyone can afford to move to New York. Or wants to live in New York.

–I think I have a good start to the kids’ story. I know the story I want to tell. But damn, finding the right voice, the right approach? Hard as fuck. I’m going to get a draft done and then ask some kids to come have hot chocolate with me and let me read it to them. And then see what they say.

–And the red afghan comes along.

–And I got to watch Sleepy Hollow at its real time, because the Butcher fell asleep watching football and I stole the remote! I wish there were a way that I could arrange for Tom Mison to say something about “baffling mysteries” to me. The directors on that show must have a blast. “Now, I need you to look at the camera with your steely blue eyes” and “Okay, now you give a look halfway between ‘I would like to fuck you’ and ‘I would like to fucking slap you upside the head.'” “Okay, Orlando, why don’t you do something completely surprising that both seems out of character and yet fitting. No, whatever. I trust you.” “Where’s the horseman’s AK-47? Has anyone seen the Horseman’s gun?” I mean where does dude even keep his bullets?!

Tall Betsy?!

Betsy is the most boring name ever. Maybe not ever. But you maybe get to be a flag maker. There’s the unfortunate Betsy Wetsy doll. And then, nothing. Betsy. It’s hard to imagine a President Betsy Hollingsworth, because you know, unless she were just a Betsy (like me), she’d be President Elizabeth Hollingsworth.

Oh, we have Sweet Betsy from Pike, who is both sweet and has a lover, which are nice things to aspire to for anyone, really.

But it’s not like being named Betsy leads to interesting questions. No one is all “Oh, Betsy. Are you named after Jevon Kearse?” because, well, obviously, that’s a stupid question. Or they’re not “Oh, so you must love the legend of the Hook-Handed Betsy!” because there is no legend of the anything Betsy until now.

Apparently Cleveland, Tennessee has a legend of Tall Betsy, who eats little kids! I mean, sure it sounds bad, but I’m sure she has her reasons. Anyway, Tall Betsy. That is awesome and it pleases me.

My One Bit of Writerly Advice

I don’t really have a lot of writerly advice. Mostly, in order to be a writer, you just write. Write when your writing is shitty. Write when it’s not. Just write. And when you aren’t writing, read.

But the real, practical advice I would give is this–go get rejected. A hundred times. A thousand times. Go get rejected until you can absorb the blow of it. Think of yourself as one of those old-timey guys whose job it is to get hit in the stomach by a cannon ball. No matter what, it’s going to suck, but the sooner you acquire the skills to absorb the blow, the better.

I’m not there yet, myself. But I see it as a necessary place to be.

Projects A-Go-Go

So, I have kind of decided I’m not submitting anything for the rest of the year. I only have one thing out now and it’s a long shot, and I just don’t want to think about that stuff at the moment.

I have entered all my corrections into the Ben & Sue project and I have read through it and I’m less depressed about it than I have been. I’m going to ask a couple of people to read it and then I am also going to set it aside for a bit.

I’m working on a red afghan for the Red-Headed Kid, which should be cool.

I’m hoping to see more art from Project X.

And here’s what I’m turning my attention to–I’m going to try to write a children’s story. A spooky, ghostly children’s story, so that I have something to read to kids if I’m asked to come read creepy things to them.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what scared me as a kid and I have to tell you, it was the green pants with no one inside them. I could not read that story by myself when I was a kid. The picture of the pants riding the bike by themselves? Scared the shit out of me. I was terrified of accidentally seeing it. That’s what I’m kind of wanting to do. Something like that. I have an artist volunteering to illustrate it. But whew, I am excited and intimidated.