Stories are Changing

Look at this! It makes me feel so old-fashioned and inadequate. It’s just so.. ugh… if it were a person, I would pinch its cheeks.

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I Can See It!

I’m wearing my new contacts today and the very first thing I noticed is that I can see my blind spot! It’s not as bad as I’d feared, but it’s basically like a small, dark crescent in my line of vision. I can still see the things that are there, they’re just dimmer than the surrounding stuff. I don’t know if this means that the vision isn’t 100% gone or if my eye just darts around enough to compensate.

But it’s cool.

Well, and upsetting, but mostly cool.

The Dog Has Gotten Smarter

Today on our walk, I thought he bent down and picked something up, but then there was no chewing so I shrugged it off. A quarter of a walk later, he set it down–a foil hamburger wrapper. He really wanted to get the cheese off it.

I can’t imagine walking all that way with a ball of foil in your mouth. That must have felt and tasted so weird. But, I guess, when there’s cheese involved, a man does what a man must do.

I stepped on the wrapper, hid it under my heel. He sniffed around for it a while and then looked up at me and smiled. “Hey, that’s weird. That thing is just gone!”

And then he ran off to eat some cat poop.

So, I guess that’s a win?

Procrastinating with Keeping Busy

I’ve been avoiding work on the Nashville book by writing short stories. I’ve got one about a woman who discovers she’s got a small-scale replica of Memphis in her belly, and one about the only girl in a family of seventh sons and her memories of her grandfather, and one about fortune telling and kidnapping and a failed studfarm. I’m working on one now about a woman who challenges a beaver to a dam building contest.

I keep writing about families, even when I don’t think that’s what I’m writing about. I’m just obsessed with how much of our current lives are the way they are because of choices and patterns set by our dead relatives long before we came along.

But I’m also kind of fascinated by just how little strangeness has to happen in a story for me to feel like it counts as fantasy.

I’m also kind of obsessed with writing stories about being working poor or maybe just recently out of that. A lot of these stories are, in part, about how a lack of money constrains you in ways that even having super awesome powers–psychic abilities or magic or whatever–doesn’t really help.

I don’t know if they’re any good, but they’re coming and, sometimes when you’re writing, that’s all you can ask.

Suspect Zero or, Perhaps, Another Movie

Last night, while I was tucking tails, I thought I was rewatching Suspect Zero, which is a supernatural suspense movie starring Ben Kingsley, that chick from The Matrix, and that guy who looks better scruffy, but they never let him just all the time dress like a long-haired biker.

Now, it’s been some time since I thought I first saw this, so I was unsurprised to find that I didn’t quite remember some parts–like the whole deal with the mask. But other parts–like the creepy truck and the misdirect with the guy at the fair were just as fresh as they were, ostensibly, the first time I saw it.

So, kind of, spoiler alert for this next part (for reasons that will be clear in a minute).

At this point–the misdirect with the guy at the fair–I start watching really closely to see if I can tell this time that Ben Kingsley’s character is dead. Because I am certain that, in the version I saw, once Ben Kinglsey’s character’s visions narrow down and certain up to the point where hot-biker-dude-who-never-gets-to-play-a-biker is definitely going to find Suspect Zero, Kinglsey’s character offs himself and his ghost provides guidance to the hero and then we get the reveal at the end that he’s been dead this whole time. Kind of The Sixth Sense, but in a sadder way, because it suggests death isn’t the relief Ben Kingley’s character thought it would be.

Folks, that’s not remotely how the movie ends.

So, where the fuck did my alternate ending come from? Is there another movie out there like it and I just conflated the two? Am I from some alternate world where that’s how the movie goes and I fell into this realm because your Betsy is off making out with Ourselves in some third parallel universe? I don’t know. But it’s strange as fuck.

For what it’s worth, I did think this version was more logically consistent, but I was bummed to miss out on a ghost.

Never the Same Walk Twice

I spent the past two days basically parked on the couch at my house doing nothing. Well, not nothing. I got a bunch of stuff done and took a couple of nice walks with the dog. But I really needed some time when I wasn’t obliged to anyone for anything and no one wanted to talk to me or interact with me in any way and here it was!

I’m finally feeling refreshed after a week off!

But the thing I thought was funny is that my walk this morning felt great. I think that’s one of the things I find strangest and yet most fascinating about my body (or any body, I guess, but I’m not hanging out in yours. Yet.) is how I can do the same thing over and over and over again and sometimes it royally sucks, like I can’t even catch my breath getting up the hill and sometimes it’s like today where we just walk it out like it’s no big deal and I come home feeling refreshed and reinvigorated.

Like, oh, yeah, this is why I do this. It’s often very pleasant.

I also don’t want to jinx myself because lord knows he can be a pill but can I just say, too, how nice it is to have a dog who walks so easily? And who would have ever thought I’d have said that a year ago?

I Started Crocheting It Not Knowing What It Was, Now I’ll Continue Crocheting It Forever Just Because…

It never ends, my friends. I can’t even tell if I’ve made an appreciable dent in the tails to be tucked. Worse, the Butcher bought me this awesome book of crochet patterns including the most excellent square I have ever seen. All I do is work on this afghan thinking about how, when I finish up, I can attempt that square.

I am never finishing. This afghan has no end.

tucked untucked

You are what you are and you make it hard

The Butcher is in his room puking. The dog is…. I don’t even know. Possibly trying to lick his face. Or at least look with interest at the garbage can he’s puking in.

A one-eyed dog, limping and deaf, has been wandering around the back yard (and other places. Say what you will about out here. There are a lot of other places.). Saying it like that makes it sound quaint. The dog is dying. I tried going up to it, to see if it had a collar, but its behavior was so unnerving that I backed away.

In a story, that dog symbolizes something or is The Old Man come to launch himself over the line one more time.

In real life, that’s just a dog someone should have taken care of, but didn’t, and now it’s not safe to approach.

Here’s the thing. I considered feeding that dog. And I know what I’m about to say is going to seem fucked up, but I decided against it. Because having that dog in my back yard more consistently isn’t safe for the people and animals who regularly are in my back yard because I want the to be.

It’s not less valuable than Sonnyboy or less worthy of a full belly than the cats.

And I know it’s hanging around back there because our neighbor tosses table scraps into his back yard and because our back yard smells like a place where a dog can find some food and water.

I’m just choosing the animals I like and know over it. Even knowing what it means for that dog.

Now we’re in a metaphor. I feel like I should announce that.

But here’s the thing. Over the past couple of months, an unnatural amount of people have told me how nice I am and I never know quite how to take it. I don’t really perceive of myself as being nice nor is nice a trait I’m particularly worried about having. I worry about being mistaken for being nice, because I feel like that leads people to inadvertent and unnecessary hurt when they discover that I’m not. But I don’t really have much interest in being nice. It seems terrifying and unsafe and to put the people you care about at risk.

A nice person would find a way to make that dog more comfortable. Feed it, at least.

I’m choosing the well-being of my household over the well-being of the strange dog lurking about. If it’s still around on Monday, I’m going to call animal control. I figure the death they give it, if they can find it, will be better than whatever’s waiting for it out here.

I don’t speak to my sister-in-law. She still managed to massively disrupt my holiday. My dad tries very hard to be nice and kind to her.

I don’t really see the payoff.

So, I hope she’s praying for his long and continued good health.

The Afghan of 1200 Squares

This picture was taken shortly before there were 1200 squares. I had to lay out all my clumps (of twelve squares each) to see how close I was to having a hundred clumps. I am, in this picture, 36 squares short. All 1200 squares now exist. I have moved on to the end-tucking portion of the squares, which will eventually be followed by the end-tucking portion of the seams. I have a hard time believing I will ever do another afghan like this, but I am curious to see how this one turns out.

1200 squares

Progress

The bathroom is clean. The kitchen is clean. The short story is almost just right. The afghan is very close to having all its squares completed.  The dog is napping.

And it’s the solstice!

I Have Hopes

I hope the Butcher is spending the last day of his vacation doing some cleaning or I’m going to end up spending the first day of my vacation doing all the cleaning. That will not make me happy.

But, in related news, I’m about to have a week off.

In unrelated news, I ate too much for lunch and now I am full and happy.

I don’t quite like how my short story has shaped up, but at least it has a shape. It’s funny. This writing stuff never gets easier. Like, you never just spit out a story that is wholly perfect. Each one, at least in the first draft, fails in some new and spectacular way.

My writing lately even has me wondering if now might be the time when I go make my peace with Hemingway. My sentences have become so ungodly, just full of commas and parenthetical asides and dashes and, well, anyway, I could use some practice writing simple, straightforward sentences that pack a punch.

Performance Art has to Have an Aesthetic Component, Right? Here’s Mine

The best part of this afghan, even though it makes it practically unwashable, is the different yarns I’m using on it and the different ways they look. Not just in color, but in texture:

Here's a lot of little squares in a bag. I don't think that anything in the afghan is actually that bright a yellowish green, but the iPhone camera does what the iPhone camera wants.

Here’s a lot of little squares in a bag. I don’t think that anything in the afghan is actually that bright a yellowish green, but the iPhone camera does what the iPhone camera wants.

This is a Japanese wool yarn I really like (though it's hella expensive) because each square is slightly different than the next. I doubt it's really hand-spun (it's not that expensive), but it definitely has that feel to it. It's two-ply yarn, so the variation comes from the change in colors of each ply being staggered. You can see here that we're moving from a green to a kind of coppery gold.

This is a Japanese wool yarn I really like (though it’s hella expensive) because each square is slightly different than the next. I doubt it’s really hand-spun (it’s not that expensive), but it definitely has that feel to it. It’s two-ply yarn, so the variation comes from the change in colors of each ply being staggered. You can see here that we’re moving from a green to a kind of coppery gold. It’s very rough. And that looks like a dog hair stuck to it.

I ended up with a few balls of yarn like this--oneply, barely twisted. Almost more like a good roving or a top, though it's acrylic. I like how shiny it is and how it has almost a jewelry chain appearance in the stitches.

I ended up with a few balls of yarn like this–one-ply, barely twisted. Almost more like a good roving or a top, though it’s acrylic. I like how shiny it is and how it has almost a jewelry chain appearance in the stitches.

This picture does not begin to do justice to how beautiful this yarn is. Basically, imagine the gold of a Renaissance angel's halo and that would appear to be what this yarn is made of.  It's also just one ply, but it's got a pretty substantial twist. That twist makes the stitches stand out a lot more than the previous yarn.

This picture does not begin to do justice to how beautiful this yarn is. Basically, imagine the gold of a Renaissance angel’s halo and that would appear to be what this yarn is made of. It’s also just one ply, but it’s got a pretty substantial twist. That twist makes the stitches stand out a lot more than the previous yarn. This is my favorite yarn of the bunch, just because the color is so amazing. The white yarn that’s holding it together–my old Kool-aid dying yarn, remains one of my favorites for its awesome twists, which you can see here.

Every Damn Year

I feel so low right about now and every damn year I’m surprised by it. I can’t believe it’s only Thursday. This week has been so long. I’m having lunch with a friend of my mom’s tomorrow. I don’t know why. I don’t know her and she doesn’t know me. She knew my mom in grade school.

But I guess she’s in town for some medical tests and who wants to come to a strange city alone for medial tests and have no one to have lunch with? I sure as fuck wouldn’t.

So, that’s why I said yes.

I just feel like this time of year is the time of year when the things we want from each other and the things we’re capable of actually doing for each other stand in stark contrast, bleak contrast, to each other and it makes me sad.

Oh Cold, So Cold

It’s almost hilariously cold in my office. I’m basically typing this in order to keep my fingers functioning.

The Butcher is on vacation this week. He wasn’t home when I got home from work last night and I’m not sure when he got home, except that I don’t think it was much before I got up.

The funniest part to me is that you’d think the dog would be in heaven, with his sweet man staying at home with him. But I swear he’s been being so sweet to me and so good on our walks that I suspect he’s a little tired of having people around all the time, because it’s cutting into his napping time.

I’ve been working on short stories because the Nashville book is depressing and I need to be doing some reading for it, but I’ve been not in that headspace.

And I think we have our Christmas plans settled. We’ll see.

Riddles as Cosmology

I think that the Old English love of riddles captures something of the way they approached life: life is a puzzle, but one to be encountered with joy and wit rather than despair. A lot of art is mimetic, but the relationship between riddles and reality is ironic, playful, tricky. Something similar can be said of the two modes of art, ‘realism’ (mimetic) and Fantasy (ironic).

The Anglo-Saxon world from which Tolkien took so much inspiration saw the universe as a riddle, and prized an ironic stance with respect to it. Not that courage and loyalty and strength were unimportant (of course, they were vitally important), but that a warrior hold his strength lightly, that he face death with a smile, that he fight more fiercely in the teeth of certain defeat. I am not talking about flippancy, or a more clumsy disrespectful. I am talking about accepting that there is a mismatch between our human abilities to understand and the brute fact of the cosmos.–Adam Roberts, via i09

Crows

On our walk, a hundred crows, or what looked like a hundred crows–I didn’t count them–passed over our heads all calling to each other. I stood there, just gape-mouthed at how many of them there were. Not as many as collect on Vanderbilt’s campus, but many more than I’ve ever seen in the neighborhood.

And then I realized, I was standing there with my mouth open while birds flew overhead.

Probably not my wisest moment.

Words I Like

DO NOT PRESS PLAY ON THIS VIDEO AT WORK.

But literally nothing makes me happier than the way she says “I guess that cunt’s getting eaten.” Sometimes you look at the way words work together and you just know something is perfect. This sentence is perfect–the repeating “uh”s in “guess” and “cunt;” all those “t”s, especially the way it sounds like she’s adding one by pronouncing it “get” “ten” and “eat” “ten.” And it’s cheeky. I like it.

Recently, I wrote this paragraph:

My favorite thing about Harwell is her ability to be both sly as a fox and something of a mother hen to all the wayward chicks of the state house. A fox with chicks for children is never short of dinner, though, and I have to imagine she’s already licking her lips at the prospect of dealing with her fourteen most recalcitrant representatives.

And I’m really pleased with “a fox with chicks for children.” That is perfect, too. You’ve got the repeating fs, the repeating chs and the repeating os and is. I also like it because it’s almost in iambs, except for that “ren” fucking things up.

Thoughts I Have Thunked

1. I’m kind of pissed that it has taken Constantine so long to get good. It’s frustrating to watch now knowing it’s probably going to be cancelled. I wish, wish, wish we switched to a model where they just up-front said “You get x episodes to tell your story. If your ratings are good, we’ll give you x more episodes to tell another complete story, either with these characters or a whole new show.” That way, you could commit to watching a show knowing you were going to get a self-contained story, even if you only got one story out of it.

2. The dog teased me yesterday. We were on our walk and I said, come here, let me put your leash on, and he came over and just as I was about to put his leash on, he bounded away, and turned back and smiled at me. I laughed and then he came over and leaned against my legs and let me put his leash on him.

3. The performance art afghan. It’s… I don’t even know how to explain it to you. It’s ridiculous. So, I think I’ve decided that it’s going to be 30 x 40 tiny two-inch squares. Thus necessitating 1200 squares. I’m doing them in bundles of twelve, because I had thought I was doing 36×48, but I realized too late after I’d started bundling them in groups of twelve, that this would result in way too huge an rectangly an afghan. So, I need 100 bundles. I have 70 but I’m out of yarn. The yarn is on order. So, I am, at the moment, tucking ends. Every end tuck I remind myself is one more end I will not have to tuck after all 1200 squares are done. My biggest concern is making sure that the squares are well-mixed in the end. No, my biggest concern is that I’m not going to live through having to tuck 1200 squares worth of ends. It’s my least favorite thing about crocheting. Why would I assign myself a task that’s basically just end-tucking?! But I think it’s going to be really neat. Unwashable which I have mixed feelings about (M. do not fuck or bleed or sweat on my afghan, please.) but neat.

4. It’s unwashable because I just bought yarn that caught my eye, so it’s a mix of acrylics and wool and wool blends. Nothing will shrink at the same rate and some shit will definitely felt.

5. It does crack me up to think that most of my afghans are safe for fucking, bleeding, or sweating on. I should make afghans for swashbucklers!

Pictures of the Sesquicentennial

There Was a Lot of Crochetting During the Civil War

That’s what I gathered from the Battle of Nashville stuff. All the women were crocheting. As you may remember, I’m on a quest to try to understand why Nashville doesn’t have a sheep-eating culture, even though we seem to happily eat anything else., since nm pointed it out to me.

So, yesterday, I talked to a Civil War reenactor who raises sheep for wool out in Wilson County and she has a theory I think may be the correct one. Almost all sheep in Middle Tennessee were, first and foremost, for wool. People out in the country who raise sheep, even wool sheep, do eat lamb at Easter. Even now. But it’s got to be a special occasion that you’d be willing to eat something that’s going to make you money for the rest of its life.

If you were eating the sheep from your herd regularly, it meant something had gone really wrong for you–that you were so desperate to eat that you couldn’t wait for wool to sell. So, she thinks that eating sheep, except at Easter, may have become associated with deprivation and hard times, here. And that may be why there’s not a lot of sheep eating here. It had for a long time, the connotation of hard times, and, even when it didn’t have those connotations anymore, we didn’t have the years of recipes and traditions about eating it.

I don’t know. But it seems plausible.

Christmas Ghosts

Grief is a son of a bitch. It just comes when it wants, makes itself at home, and then leaves without warning.

Last night, I dreamed that I had gotten the Butcher what was supposed to be the best video game out this season (you were a woman who collects a band of ne’er-do-wells to solve puzzles and conquer the world) and he and the Red-headed Kid were playing it. I was getting a drink of water at the kitchen sink and waiting for the rain to stop so that I could go to some book thing here in town, which I was late for and still not packed. I looked out in the yard and there was Sadie, just hanging out with the cats by the back door, waiting for someone to notice that she wasn’t in the house.

“You guys left the dog out,” I yelled at the guys.

“No we didn’t,” they insisted. But I saw her, right by the back door. I opened the kitchen door to let her in and she came walking in just like usual. I keep the door open to see if the cats wanted to come inside, since it was raining, and that was when I realized something wasn’t right, because I couldn’t focus on the orange cat. Everything around him was in focus, but he remained blurry and seemingly headless. I then realized I didn’t hear the dog in the house. I turned to look behind me and there was Sonnyboy, asleep.

And then I realized this was a dream. Which I found upsetting, so I woke up.

Talent

Yesterday, I was having this same conversation in three different iterations, basically about how someone who did something really detestable in the course  of his job, is now doing something else in the course of his job that seems like it needs to be engaged with and should we engage with it or not?

Like, imagine if Jame O’Keefe discovered some government corruption. Does anyone have any obligation to keep checking back in with O’Keefe to discover that this time he was right?

I say no.

But one thing that I find really striking and, I admit, very confusing is that part of the reason it seems like bad actors never go entirely away is this idea that there’s no one else to take their place. Like, it’s better to have a shitty, toxic writer who occasionally writes the things we want written than to not have him or no one will write the things we want written.

Even at lunch yesterday they were playing this interview with this guy who wrote a biography of Richard Pryor and, even though it was obvious that the biographer adored him, Pryor comes across like a nightmare jerk. And I get it–really. Because he was a genius. And his nightmare jerk-dom cost him some. He’s not in Blazing Saddles, for instance.

Eh, maybe Pryor’s a bad example because racism does keep the number of opportunities for black people limited.

But here’s the thing I have learned living in Nashville. Everybody has talent. A lot of talent. The best guitar player you ever heard is not even the best guitar player you might here that night. Being able to do the thing you want to do is just the bare minimum requirement. You need to be lucky and work hard and show up and be lucky some more. Because there are always ten other people who have as much talent as you–but maybe they’re sick today or hungover (or still drunk) or too scared to show up or don’t have the support they need or whatever.

I genuinely don’t get why the media doesn’t seem to get this. You don’t want to work with that Johnson guy because he seems too intense and loose with the facts? There must be fifty conservative young people who can write who would love his opportunities. I mean, I think I could find fifty and I have almost no connections to conservative young people.

I don’t like a world in which people get cut at the first sign of wrong-doing. But every conversation I had yesterday with this in the background, it seems like a lot of editors believe that there’s just not that much good writing out there–that no matter what the issues with person X are, no matter how big and prolific their fuck-ups, if person X is a known quantity, it’s better to work with person X than to not have anyone who can do it.

But there are other people who can do it. I don’t think I’m wrong about this. I see so many fucking talented writers in my life every day. There are at least five of you who comment here regularly whose books, which, as far as I know you’ve not written and maybe have no intention of writing, that I want to read and be able to fan-girl out about. But I believe, if you turned your attention to it, you could write a kick ass book, because I see your talent here.

There are an almost  unlimited number of guitarists. You wouldn’t believe a band in Nashville who couldn’t find a guitarist. And being a guitarist has start-up costs–you have to get a guitar. To be a writer, you just have to write.  The number of writers out there is enormous, mind-bogglingly enormous. If even only a fraction of us are talented, that fraction still represents a sizable number of people.

It simply can’t be true that there’s no one else to do the work. But the assumption that there aren’t enough talented writers seems pretty wide-spread.

(I need to get in the shower, but I find this attitude especially frustrating when you stop to think about how grossly underrepresented women and minorities are in writing. It’s like, dudes, stop looking for writers in just this one place and you will find a ton of them.)