I’m so ready to not be sick. There’s yard work to be done and I’m bored of having nothing to talk about here. I want adventures! Creepy graveyards. Baffling historical facts. At least to get my oil changed.


Go ahead and try

I don’t know why, but I was just reminded of this terrible joke from when I was in 4th or 5th grade. It’s really terrible, so just fair warning. It goes like this (though you can substitute in your friend’s names, if you want to):

One day, Jimmy’s dad gives him five dollars and tells him to go to the grocery store and buy some bologna. “Bring me back my bologna or I’ll beat your ass.” But, on the way to the store, Jimmy gets distracted and he ducks into the toy store and spends his money on matchbox cars instead. Shit, now he’s got no money and no bologna and, if he goes home without any bologna, his dad is going to beat his ass. So, out of desperation, Jimmy slices off some of his butt and takes it home to his father. Yum! His dad loves it. It’s the most delicious bologna ever. The next week, he gives Jimmy another warning about ass beatings and five more dollars and again, Jimmy blows it on fun stuff that is, most definitely, not bologna. And again, he faces the prospect of returning home without bologna and getting his ass beat. So, out comes the knife and off comes more of Jimmy’s butt. On and on this goes, week after week, until Jimmy blows through his weekly $5, looks in his pants, and realizes that he’s got no more butt left to hack off. He returns home empty-handed. “Boy,” Jimmy’s father says, “I told you to bring me back some bologna or I’d beat your ass. Now I’m going to beat your ass.”

“Go ahead and try.”

Keeping On Keeping On

The Butcher claims that the first day you can stand to walk the dog is five days out from when you finally feel like yourself again. I walked the dog today. Sadie wasn’t ever one to fret if you were sick or upset. But Sonnyboy is different in so many ways. So, I got up this morning and the Butcher was still in bed. Sonnyboy was wandering around the house and, when he saw me, he came up and sniffed me. Then he waited patiently for me to get dressed. He put his face harness on without trouble (though he did give me some great big hops to let me know that he was excited about getting to go for a walk) and then we slowly walked our walk. Then we came home and he curled up next to me on the couch.

He wasn’t fretting over me, but he was definitely gentler than usual

Up and Away, Kind of

On the one hand, mentally, I’m feeling a whole lot better. But physically, I’ve entered a new, unpleasant place where my eyes are watering continuously, my nose is stuffed up and, every time I sneeze, 147 tons of snot comes out with it. If we could use snot for energy, NES would be writing me a check this month instead of the usual way it goes.

But, in good news, I’ve started the thing, the process, I wanted to start. Keep your fingers crossed for me. And the Butcher made me cupcakes and they were delicious, but lord, that man cannot frost to save his life. I should have taken a picture. But it was like, well, if the frosting and the cupcake ended up in the same general vicinity, that counted as “frosted.”

And the dog was pretty well-behaved at the party, except that he kept throwing himself into the hip of the roller-derby gal who was there. And then he pooped and his behavior massively improved.

We also watched Red Lights which comes so close to being a good movie that I couldn’t help but feel sad for it that it had fallen short.

Back from the Dead

I’ve been sick. I’m still sick, but better than I was. Still, I am both so hot and so very, very cold.

And, since it’s the end of the month, I’m the asshole who’s going into work.

The Butcher and the Professor

I had a really good talk with the Professor last night about how I’m not exactly bummed or anything about turning 40. I mostly just, if I’m being honest, feel confused by it. Like, oh, okay, so nothing’s going to happen? And the Professor has this theory that we don’t really have realistic role models for how not to be like our parents, because, growing up, we saw our parents and their friends and then, anyone who wasn’t living like that was on TV, somehow changing the world. But here we are, 40, and maybe we don’t want to change the world or we realize that our ability to effect change is really limited, but we still don’t want lives like our parents’ so we have to figure out what it is we want from life instead.

I also was able to talk through with her my feelings of guilt and discomfort with the fact that I live so decadently. Like I do really have this internalized idea that there’s something shameful about deciding to just go ahead and be weird. And yet, what else can I do? I want to be happy and this is what makes me happy. So, I just have to keep on acknowledging that small voice and then ignoring it.

On my way home today, though, when I lamented to the Butcher my fear that I’ll never get a book contract, he told me to shut up because I’d already made more from my art in my lifetime than Van Gogh had made in his, so what more did I fucking want? Which made me laugh.


One good thing about social media is that, when you see all the cool people you admire wishing you a happy birthday, it really sinks in that I know them. It just completely blows my mind. I never could have imagined this life for myself. I’m very lucky.

I’d like also to have a published novel.

But I’m lucky.

The Big Four-Oh

I admit, it’s weird. I went for a walk and looked at some flowers and didn’t really feel any different than I did yesterday. But I have to say, I do feel like I’m at a mid-point. I can understand why people buy sports cars or start dating twenty-year-olds. I just don’t want it to be halfway yet, not when I’m just finally figuring shit out.

But I’ve had the Old Man on my mind quite a bit lately. Just how long He’s been hanging around. And I’m glad for that level of weirdness to go on that length of time. This morning, I was thinking about how that kind of is an unintended drawback to Christianity. Jesus dies when he’s younger than the Butcher. What model do you have for how to be holy at forty? Whereas the Old Man is old.

I also was thinking about Walt Whitman and how maybe I’ll reread “Song of Myself” this summer and see what it has to tell me this time.

Anyway, happy birthday to me.

I Learned It From Watching You, Okay?

catdogNot much gets Sonnyboy riled up, but he hates the ice cream man. The second he hears that music, he does this low chest “grugh” and then gets on the couch where he can watch that fucker until he’s sure he’s gone. It cracks me up because, normally, this is exactly where New Kitty likes to sit and watch the world go by when she’s in the house. So, I think we can all guess where the dog learned his watching-out-the-window habits. The Butcher is kind of with me on the dog maybe having diminished eyesight, too. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain–other than him continually accidentally putting his eyeball right on my foot. But other things, like when he wants to get a good look at what you’re doing, he tilts his head all around, like he’s trying to get you in the best focus he can.

Anyway, in other news, I finished my short story, tentatively called “And Now, The Dancing Brannigans” about a guy who finds some distant cousins through his genealogy research but they turn out to be kind of dicks. Entertaining, but dicks. He has them over to teach him a dance they know and they steal all his silverware and leave him sticks in return. He gets even. It’s kind of ambiguous about whether that was a good idea. I like it. I’m waiting to hear back from the anthology editor.

And my goal, my gift to myself, is to submit the Sue project to five agents this weekend. I’m nervous as fuck, but what can you do but be nervous and do it anyway?

Nice Things

1. I saw some fonts for Project X. And one is amazing. It’s somehow both very ordinary looking and deliciously unsettling.

2. The maintenance guy here at work had to rescue me a while back because the elevator was broken and I couldn’t get up the stairs by myself. Yesterday, the elevator was also broken and so he was waiting around for me to get here so that he could take me up stairs. How nice is that?


Poor Nana

The Butcher and I are in agreement that Sonnyboy has a Great Pyrenees direct relative. This was, in part, because we saw a Great Pyrenees on our adventure on Saturday and the Butcher could see in person the resemblance, both in size and in physical traits. Sonnyboy is a better treat catcher than this, though.

A Few More Thoughts on Sleepy John Estes

–Neither the birth date on his tombstone nor the birth date on Wikipedia match what he put down on his WWI draft card.

–Findagrave is missing the cemetery we spent the most time in near the Baptist churches. In that cemetery, you’d come to the opinion that every sixth person in Durhamville was named Estes and that they were all Masons. Looking at Findagrave, there appears to be seven dead Esteses in the whole county.

Taken together we learn that you can learn a lot from the internet but that going to see for yourself will always tell you important things.

Possibly I Have Slipped into Another Universe

I asked my parents for something sentimental–since it’s my 40th birthday–and they actually came through. I got a lovely card and the ring that belonged to the woman that was a surrogate grandmother to my dad and who sheltered him from as much abuse from his father as people could back in those days. And he wrote me a letter explaining the whole history of the ring and offered to have the stone reset for me.

This may be the most thoughtful gift they’ve every given me. I’m kind of blown away. I know it’s the most meaningful gift. I want to cry every time I even think about it.

A Culture of Gratitude

Whew, yesterday. That was weird. But anyway, over at Facebook, if you scroll down in the comments, you can see a couple of photos from the shoot.

I also got to run into Ranger Doug last night at the Marty Stuart thing and he even remembered me (which was funny, considering that my boss didn’t, for a second, recognize me, because I was wearing lipstick). And we had a really lovely reminiscence for a moment about working together on his book. I got to stand very close to Connie Smith, but I chickened out on saying anything to her. Marty was lovely and very grateful.

One thing I see pretty regularly in town is people trying to honor the connections that got them where they are. And I appreciate that tendency because I feel every day grateful to Charles Wolfe for helping my early career and for no reason, since he didn’t know me from Adam. And to Dr. J.’s parents for taking me in when I first moved to town. And to the Butcher for helping me be able to stay her. And even to Chris Wage who is, in his own way, the catalyst for this movie even happening, I think. I’m not sure how else the producer even knew who the fuck I am.

I am so very lucky.

Which reminds me, I was excited to recently learn that “shlemazel” is a real thing, not just some gibberish in the Laverne and Shirley opening, which seems stupid that I didn’t figure that out before, since obviously they’re not going to give valuable real estate in a theme song to nonsense. But I grew up a very sheltered asshole and I strive to be better. So, here we are. The point being that a shlemazel is a person without luck or who has luck, but only bad luck. And I am tickled and fascinated by the idea of there being this word for this phenomenon.

You could have this problem (or a similar problem, respecting the vast cultural differences) in the Viking era. Since luck or fortune was either a component of the great law that rules the universe or closely tied to it, you both could cultivate a certain amount of good fortune for yourself and just have it–either inherited through a lucky family or just because fate smiled upon you. But that also meant people could just be unlucky, too, through no fault of their own. Just that they and the great flow of the orlog (or ur-law or overarching rule of luck, however you want to understand it) were out of sync.

It’s easy to see it with fresh eyes in a word like “shlemazel” when you know to say “mazel tov” when you want to wish someone well, to wish them good luck. There’s “mazel” in both spots.

But this similar concept of luck is still wrapped intimately into our language in “hap” which, does, indeed, mean luck or fortune. When you’re happy, you are literally in a state of good luck. When something happens, it is because fate is playing out. Happenstance is luck or fortune playing out in ways we don’t know or can’t anticipate. A hapless guy is one without luck.

We’re all the time using words that used to hold profound and meaningful theological ideas about how the world works, that still, I’d say, contain those implications, we just don’t realize it.

But especially speaking of lucky, I ran into Nina Cardona and she offered to take me through Downtown Presbyterian when we can find the time. I cannot wait.

Apparently I Really Didn’t Blog About This

But here’s the deal, shortly after “Frank” came out, an independent film company in California approached me about optioning the film rights to the story. They’re kind of a small DIY outfit and I thought it was cool, so I let them have a “until we ever get it made unless someone else comes along and wants to do something with it” option for a couple hundred bucks. Which, I guess, if it goes on to win an Oscar, will have me kicking myself. I saw an early version of the script and talked some about what Frank might look like and then nothing else ever happened, so I just assumed that it wasn’t going to.

Hence my weird surprise at finally hearing that the movie was filming (which I had assumed wasn’t going to happen) from a guy I know, not because he’s involved in the film, but because he just happened to stumble across it being shot in his landlord’s yard.

So, that’s cool.

And, obviously, I have no idea if they’re shooting the script I saw, but I will say that it really tickled me to see the changes they were going to make for it to be a movie. It’s both really similar to my story and very different. But I’m a big fan of cover songs, too.

The Old Man Has a Sense of Humor

Here is a true story. Today I got a phone call from Dr. J’s dad, who had called to tell me this: he and his wife have recently moved into a new house, a cute little cabin on a bigger farm. And recently they noticed a big crowd of people in their landlord’s front yard. They went over to investigate and it was a movie shoot. Dr. J’s dad struck up a conversation with the producer.

Turns out, they’re filming a movie based on a short story by a Nashville writer.

Oh, who’s the writer?


It’s “Frank,” or the movie version. Actually happening.

What the fuck? What are the chances that a person who knew me would be living on the set of my movie?